How Do I Know If I’m Going Through Complicated Grief?

If you’ve recently experienced some type of loss, whether the loss was a person, a place, or a thing, any type of loss can be difficult to navigate. Life changes are hard and grief is often part of the process.   Unfortunately, if you have experienced grief and had expectations about how long it would last, you may be feeling frustrated, confused or disheartened that it may not yet have dissipated.   In some cases, getting back to normal life may become increasingly difficult.  This is what is considered to be ‘complicated grief.’

What is Normal Grief?

Grief is something that everyone experiences when going through any type of loss.   There is no standard for the  grieving process in that most people experience it in unique ways that are based on numerous factors such as their relationship with the person or experience that was lost, their level or resilience, their current life situation, and the nature of the loss.  Just a few of the common losses that can trigger grief are the following:

  • Change in finances
  • Divorce
  • Losing a job
  • Medical problems
  • Moving
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Near-death experience

Although the grieving process can be unique for each person, most people experience some of the same signs and symptoms, just to varying degrees and in varying order. These are some of the common signs and symptoms when it comes to normal grief:

  • Anger
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Guilt
  • Lack of energy
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Self-isolating or withdrawing from social interactions
  • Sleeping problems

What is Complicated Grief?

With complicated grief, the feelings associated with the loss don’t fade over time. Complicated grief can prevent a person from returning to their normal life.

Many of the symptoms associated with complicated grief are similar to normal grief. Some of the symptoms of complicated grief include the following:

  • Avoidance
  • Difficulty accepting the loss
  • Focus solely on the loss
  • Hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negligent or reckless behavior
  • Persistent feelings of anger, irritation, or rage
  • Substance abuse
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

How to Know What Type of Grief You’re Experiencing

There isn’t a specific timeframe for when normal grief becomes complicated grief. In general, if the grief continues for longer than six months after the loss has occurred, it is an indicator that it has turned into complicated grief. That being said, some people can experience feelings of grief for up to a year or more after a major loss. There are certain dates or events like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries that act as a constant reminder of the loss that occurred.

Complicated grief can make you feel like you’re stuck living with your grief. The signs and symptoms that you’ve experienced throughout the grieving process may feel like they have stayed the same or have gotten worse over time.  If you find yourself unable to move forward, you may have complicated grief.

Next Steps

There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to experience grief. Grief is a part of the human experience and our brains are designed to work to integrate the experience into the narrative of our life.  However, you’re not alone if you feel that your grief is particularly challenging or complicated in its nature. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Help is available to you no matter what situation you’re in. Reaching out for additional support can help you cope with what you’re going through whether you’re experiencing normal or complicated grief. Contact us soon so we can help you through this new chapter of your life with grief counseling.