While almost everyone experiences grief at some point in life, there are times when the loss of a loved one can seem emotionally insurmountable and that your life may never feel normal again. It can be difficult to differentiate between a simple grieving process and complicated grief, a much more complex condition.
Between 10 and 20% of people who experience the loss of a loved one will have complicated grief.
While this could happen to anyone grieving, certain factors like the sudden or violent death of a friend or relative, having had a dependent relationship with the deceased, a history of depression or other mental health issues or a history of substance abuse make it more likely for a person to develop complicated grief.
If you feel you are unable to move on from the loss, especially if it has been some time since this occurred, here are five indications that you may be dealing with complicated grief and should seek professional treatment:
• Extreme focus on your loved one’s death – Thoughts of this person’s passing may take on an almost obsessive quality and interfere with normal daily activities, potentially leading you to distract yourself with substances.
• Intense longing for your deceased relative or friend – You feel like your loved one’s passing has left a deep, insatiable void in your life that needs to be filled.
• Avoidance of reminders of your loved one – In contrast to being unable to stop thinking of the person whose loss you’re mourning, you may find yourself avoiding everything that reminds you of him or her to numb the pain, which may make you more likely fall back into patterns of substance abuse.
• An overwhelming sense of self-blame – You may believe that your actions caused this person’s death, or that you could’ve somehow done something different to prevent it. This feeling of helplessness and inadvertent responsibility is especially painful to handle if you are also battling addiction.
• Feeling that life holds no purpose – Without your loved one, you might believe that life is not worth living and start having suicidal thoughts.
It is possible to work through this difficult ordeal. Exercising regularly, managing stress, staying connected to close friends and family, joining a support group and seeking treatment can help you work through your grief.
Many people suffering from complicated grief aren’t aware that they can pursue inpatient treatment for it. Cottonwood Tucson offers comprehensive rehabilitation for grief, loss and depression through individual and group therapy, trauma therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a form of psychotherapy that can help people overcome trauma. Our clinicians use their deep understanding of the neurobiology of depression and the grieving process to assist bereaved patients in healing from their losses. Please contact Cottonwood Tucson at (800) 877-4520 for more information.