Losing a loved one is one of the most distressing and, unfortunately, common experiences people face. Most people experiencing normal grief and bereavement have a period of sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Gradually these feelings ease, and it's possible to accept loss and move forward.
For some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and don't improve even after time passes. This is known as complicated grief, sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the loss and resuming your own life.
Different people follow different paths through the grieving experience. The order and timing of these phases may vary from person to person:
- 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
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. If so, seek treatment. It can help you come to terms with your loss and reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.
Sept. 13, 2014
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- Shear MK, et al. Complicated grief and related bereavement issues for DSM-5. Depression and Anxiety. 2011;28:103.
- Coping with the loss of a loved one. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/griefandloss/coping-with-the-loss-of-a-loved-one-intro-to-grief-mourning-bereavement. Accessed Aug. 4, 2014.
- Grief, bereavement, and coping with loss (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/bereavement/HealthProfessional. Accessed Aug. 14, 2014.
- Shear MK. Grief and mourning gone awry: Pathway and course of complicated grief. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2012;14:119.
- Simon NM. Treating complicated grief. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2013;31:416.
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