During the first few months after a loss, many signs and symptoms of normal grief are the same as those of complicated grief. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over a few months, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in a chronic, heightened state of mourning.

Signs and symptoms of complicated grief can include:

  • Extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one
  • Intense longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Preoccupation with your sorrow
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Depression or deep sadness
  • Trouble carrying out normal routines
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Lack of trust in others

When to see a doctor

It's normal to experience grief after a significant loss. Most people who experience normal or uncomplicated grief can move forward eventually with support from family and friends. But if it's been several months or more since your loss and your emotions remain so intense or debilitating that you have trouble going about your normal routine, talk to your health care provider.

Specifically, you may benefit from professional help if you:

  • Can focus on little else but your loved one's death
  • Have persistent pining or longing for the deceased person
  • Have thoughts of guilt or self-blame
  • Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death
  • Feel as if life isn't worth living
  • Have lost your sense of purpose in life
  • Wish you had died along with your loved one

At times, people with complicated grief may consider suicide. If you're thinking about suicide, talk to someone you trust. If you think you may act on suicidal feelings, call 911 or your local emergency services number right away.

Sep. 29, 2011