Grief – Part 2

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief is a general term for describing when people adjust poorly to a loss. This is very difficult to define, as there is no standard which limits what is normal or healthy grief.

Below are some warning signs which may suggest that a person is not coping well with grief and may be at a greater risk of the grieving process taking longer to resolve or being more difficult:

  • Pushing away painful feelings or avoiding the grieving process entirely
  • Excessive avoidance of talking about or reminders of the person who has died
  • Refusal to attend the funeral
  • Using distracting tasks to avoid experiencing grief, including tasks associated with planning the funeral
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs (including prescription)
  • Increased physical complaints or illness
  • Intense mood swings or isolation which do not resolve within 1-2 months of the loss
  • Ongoing neglect of self-care and responsibilities

Again, it is important to emphasise that there are no ‘rules for grieving’ and that many of the items above may occur as part of uncomplicated grief. However, people who are coping very poorly one month after a loss may continue to cope poorly 1-2 years later, so if these warning signs are present then it is often worthwhile seeking some help early on, to increase the chances of adjusting in the long term.

 Coping with Complicated Grief

Psychological therapy can support people to safely explore feelings of grief and connect with painful feelings and memories, paving the way for resolution. Therapy may also support people to use strategies such as relaxation, engaging in positive activities, and challenging negative thoughts, in order to combat the associated symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Antidepressant medication may also be used to alleviate depression associated with grief, and this can be useful in conjunction with psychological strategies. Tranquilizing medications can interfere with the natural grieving process.  Although early help is recommended, health professionals are able to support people to work through complicated grief even years after the loss.

I hope you have found these useful. If any of this resonates with you maybe it’s time to seek out some support……

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