Grief and Loss
Grief is a serious emotion that everybody must deal with at one point or another. Losing a loved one can cause normal periods of grief and sorrow as well as numbness, anger and even stress. Most people will gradually accept the loss and move on but for some people the grief associated with the loss of a loved one is far more complicated and can even become debilitating. These people suffer from what is medically known as complicated grief and they may need help in order to resume a normal life.
There is treatment available for people who suffer from complicated grief. Painful emotions that last for a prolonged period of time following the death of a loved one can be reversed and people can ultimately be taught how to accept death and to cope with their loss. People with complicated grief can, with treatment and therapy, find a new sense of joy in life and move on.
Causes and Symptoms of Grief
Although the symptoms of complicated grief are different from the symptoms of normal grief and bereavement, many of the same symptoms will exist for a person who is going through a normal transitional phase of grief and for one who is enduring complicated grief. In many cases, people who are suffering from complicated grief will have grief symptoms that just tend to linger or that tend to actually get worse with time rather than slowly dissipating the way the symptoms should in a healthy healing process.
The signs of complicated grief may include focusing heavily on the loss or on reminders of the loved one, finding it difficult to accept death and having an inability to enjoy life as a result of the loss that was endured. Additionally, numbness or detachment may also take place and the individual who suffers from the grief may also be deeply depressed and need help dealing with the depression. People who are grieving the loss of a loved one may find it difficult to move on.
Complicated grief may cause an individual to find it difficult to perform daily tasks or to carry out normal routines. They may withdraw from social activities and could even begin to show a lack of trust in others. People who suffer from complicated grief may need to seek the help of a doctor or therapist if the symptoms of the grief last for several months despite support from family and friends or if the symptoms of the grief cause interference with daily routines.
Complicated Grief Risks
It is not fully known what causes complicated grief but researchers have determined that there are certain risk factors that may make an individual more likely to develop complicated grief following the loss of a friend or family member. People who suffer a loss that was unexpected or violent such as related to murder may have more difficulty coping with the loss and could be more likely to suffer from complicated grief. Additionally, if the loss was related to suicide this could also make it more difficult for a person to deal with the loss.
Additional risk factors associated with complicated grief include being unprepared for the death, having a close relationship to the deceased person or a lack of resilience to life changes. People who lose a child may be at an increased risk of suffering from complicated grief based on the number of or lack or remaining children. Additionally, people who have a lack of supporting relationships to help them cope with the grief may also find that the grief lingers for a prolonged period of time and may even turn into complicated grief.
Treatment for Complicated Grief
Various types of treatment exist for helping people to cope with grief. Complicated grief has no standard treatment because everybody deals with grief in a different way and will require a different method of therapy or treatment in order to cope with the grief. Mental health providers are still trying to understand complicated grief and to develop ways to treat the disorder as various types of treatment for complicated grief have had different and very mixed results.
Psychotherapy is used to treat some forms of complicated grief. For some people, psychotherapy is an effective means of treating grief. Psychotherapy uses cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma therapy to help people with complicated grief to learn how to adjust to loss and to redefine the goals in life in a manner that will be more positive and will reduce negative thoughts and emotions. In psychotherapy the patient may hold an imagined conversation with their lost loved one in order to retell the circumstances of the death and to become less stressed about images or thoughts of the loved one.
People who suffer from complicated grief may also benefit from other forms of psychotherapy offered at rehab centers that provide treatment for mental health disorders. Interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy may also provide an effective form of relief from the grief that an individual suffers from. Various types of therapy offered at mental health rehab centers can help an individual who suffers from complicated grief to process the emotions that they have relating to the death of a loved one and to improve their coping skills to reduce the feelings of blame, guilt or shame associated with the loss.
Some rehab centers and doctors may also recommend medication to help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with complicated grief. Although there is very little solid evidence relating to the effectiveness of psychiatric medications in treating symptoms of complicated grief, some benefits may be found in the use of antidepressants such as SSRIs for the treatment of complicated grief. SSRIs are a specific class of antidepressants that may be able to reduce the symptoms of complicated grief so that the individual can begin learning how to cope with and move on from the loss of a loved one.