It's not known what causes complicated grief. As with many mental health disorders, it may involve an interaction between inherited traits, your environment, your body's natural chemical makeup and your personality.

Researchers used to believe that all people moved through five specific stages of grief, in order. Today it's accepted that different people follow different paths through these experiences of grieving:

  • Accepting the reality of your loss
  • Allowing yourself to experience the pain of your loss
  • Adjusting to a new reality in which the deceased is no longer present
  • Having other relationships

You may accomplish these in a different order or on a different timeline than another person grieving a similar loss. These differences are normal. But if you're unable to move through one or more of these stages after a considerable amount of time, you may have complicated grief.

Sep. 29, 2011

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.