Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Call your doctor if you've recently lost a loved one and are feeling such profound disbelief, hopelessness or intense yearning for your loved one that you can't function in daily life, or if intense grief doesn't improve over time.

After your initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider who can help diagnose your symptoms and provide a treatment plan.

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long. Your doctor will want to know the extent to which these symptoms are affecting your daily life, including work and personal relationships.
  • Write down your key personal information, especially any additional major stress or change you've experienced since your loved one died. For example, tell your doctor if you or someone close to you has had a serious illness since your loved one's death, or if you've had significant family disruptions or financial problems.
  • Write down all of your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed. Also write down the names and dosages of any medications you're taking.
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend to be present for your appointment, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to take in all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor or mental health provider include:

  • Do you think my symptoms are more severe than what's typical after a loved one's death?
  • Do you think psychological counseling (psychotherapy) would help me?
  • Are there local support groups or online support groups that might help me?
  • Are medications available that could improve my symptoms?
  • What are the possible side effects of those medications?
  • What self-care steps are most likely to help me?
  • How long do you expect it will take me to feel better with treatment?
  • Will I eventually feel like myself again?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared in advance, don't hesitate to ask for more information at any time during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

A doctor or mental health provider who sees you for possible complicated grief may ask:

  • How often do you think about your deceased loved one?
  • Do you believe you could have prevented your loved one's death?
  • Do you ever wish that you had died along with your loved one?
  • Would you say you've accepted that your loved one is gone?
  • How well are you functioning in your daily life, including work, household maintenance and other relationships?
  • Have you experienced any other major stresses, changes or loss since your loved one died?
  • Have you had trouble eating or sleeping since your loved one died?
  • How much social support would you say you have, such as from relatives, friends or a church community?
  • Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions?
  • Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most beneficial?
  • Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs? If so, how often?

What you can do in the meantime

While you're waiting for your doctor appointment, reach out to your friends or family. Talking about your feelings and asking for help is essential to healthy grieving.

Sep. 29, 2011