grieving

Complicated Grief: When You Just Can’t Move On

Last week we discussed surviving your first holiday without a loved one. Getting through all the “firsts” without your loved one can be particularly hard. What if you cannot seem to move on though? Did you know there is actually a medical diagnosis for that? It is known as complicated grief syndrome or persistent complex bereavement disorder. 

 

Grief is different for everyone and how they progress through the stages varies. For most, grief looks something like this:

 

Accepting the loss

Experiencing the pain of loss

Adjusting to a new reality without a loved one 

Building other relationships

 

For those struggling with complicated grief, however, resuming normal daily activities is difficult. If you cannot seem to pass through these stages and resume a happy life after more than a year,  you may have complicated grief. 

 

Complicated grief symptoms 

 

The symptoms of complicated grief are similar to the normal grieving process. However, normal grief symptoms fade over time while complicated grief may worsen. 

 

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 time, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.

 

Symptoms include:

 

Feeling numb and detached 

Intense pain and sorrow over the loss 

Inability to accept the loss

Excessive avoidance of reminders of the loved one

Inability to focus on anything but your loss 

Feeling unnecessarily responsible for the death

Intense longing for the deceased

Feeling that life lacks purpose or meaning 

Inability to reflect on positive memories with the loved one

Feeling bitter about the loss 

Isolating yourself from activities 

Inability to trust others 

Wishing you had also died 

 

Complicated grief also may be indicated if you continue to:

 

Have trouble carrying out normal routines

Isolate yourself from others and withdraw from social activities

Experience depression, deep sadness, guilt or self-blame

Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death

Feel life isn’t worth living without your loved one

Wish you had died along with your loved one

 

Causes and risk factors 

 

Medical professionals do not know what causes some to be more likely to develop complicated grief than others. We do know the condition occurs more often in females and with older age. Factors such as your personality, environment, and inherited traits and your natural chemical makeup make be risk factors. 

 

Risk factors include: 

 

Death of a child

An unexpected or violent death

Traumatic childhood experiences

Social isolation or loss of a support system or friendships

Close or dependent relationship to the deceased person

Past history of separation anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Other major life stressors

 

Complications

 

If you have symptoms of complicated grief, we urge you to seek help. Without appropriate treatment, complications may develop such as:

 

Alcohol or substance abuse 

Anxiety, including PTSD

Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Depression

Sleep disturbances

Increased risk of physical illness

Long-term difficulty with daily living

 

Treatment 

 

Your doctor will determine which treatment is best for you. A typical treatment plan may include the use of antidepressant medications, counseling or psychotherapy. If you need a physician, one of our CCMH providers would love to meet with you. 

 

If you have thoughts about suicide, talk to someone you trust. If you think you may act on these feelings, call 911 or your local emergency services number right away. You can also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

 

Disclaimer 

 

The Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not provide specific medical advice for individual cases. Comanche County Memorial Hospital does not endorse any medical or professional services obtained through information provided on this site, articles on the site or any links on this site.

 

 Use of the information obtained by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not replace medical advice given by a qualified medical provider to meet the medical needs of our readers or others.

 

 While content is frequently updated, medical information changes quickly. Information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies or typographical errors. For questions or concerns, please contact us at contact@ccmhhealth.com.

girl surviving holiday without loved one

Surviving Your First Holiday Without A Loved One

The holidays are often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year.” Surviving your first holiday without a loved one, however, is a difficulty that seems unimaginable to get through. Holiday traditions which once brought us much cheer, suddenly intensify our pain when we experience the gaping hole of loss. 

 

Sometimes, there is truly nothing that makes grief better. Unfortunately, it is something we just have to pass through. Will all of these tips to surviving your first holiday without a loved one help? Perhaps, or perhaps not. However, our loved ones lost wouldn’t expect us to continue on in suffering. You should not feel guilty for attempting to cope or even find renewed joy in this season. 

 

Here are five tips for surviving your first holiday after loss:

 

Celebrate or don’t

 

Don’t feel forced or obligated to do anything as far as the holidays are concerned. Although others have the best intentions and just want you to feel better, there is nothing wrong with saying “no.” You don’t have to attend any festivities you don’t feel up to, and you don’t have to rush through the holidays due to the date on a calendar. 

 

Don’t let anyone tell you that being alone is not good for you. Everyone handles grief differently, especially when surviving your first holiday without a loved one. Sometimes ignoring grief by surrounding ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the holidays may cause you to need longer to work through it. 

 

If your loss is fairly new, you may wish to simply delay a family gathering. This is ok. There is no rule that you must celebrate on a specific date. 

 

Carry on with old traditions or discover new ones 

 

Life after loss is a great time to find comfort in traditions that reminded us of our loved one. We may watch their favorite holiday films or prepare their favorite holiday dishes just like always. We may feel strange about carrying on like “normal” after loss how we did before. That is ok. There is nothing wrong with creating new traditions. 

 

Sometimes, you may find great comfort in finding new holiday traditions. You may wish to light a candle or still set a place for them at the table. You may wish to continue to give to their favorite charity or volunteer in their honor. The possibilities are endless. This could lead to you creating traditions you actually look forward to experiencing in the future. 

 

Ask for help when you need it 

 

Grief is draining and exhausting. You may feel a variety of feelings while trying to get through the normal day to day things as well as holiday events. If you need to cut back on some activities, ask for help! If you need help even doing little things like running personal errands, ask for help! 

 

Those who love you will surely love the opportunity to help. Shutting others out and just trying to push through as you always did before your loss may actually set you back and make it harder to process your grief. 

 

Make your mental health a priority 

 

To go along with asking for help, you may find comfort in talking about your grief with others in a support group, attending therapy sessions, or finding religious support through a faith-based organization. To find recommendations of local support groups, reach out to our pastoral care team by visiting ccmhhealth.com/pastoral-care

 

Watch out for unhealthy coping patterns 

 

If it’s been a while since your loss and you find yourself feeling apathetic, hopeless, or exhausted, grief experts warn this could be signs of depression. This may lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as withdrawing from social situations, excessive alcohol consumption or self-harm.

 

Taking care of yourself while grieving, both emotionally and physically, is so important! Get plenty of rest, eat healthy meals, and exercise. Dealing with grief alone is difficult. Don’t let it take a toll on your physical health too. 

 

For some, grief is even debilitating and doesn’t improve with time. If more than a year has passed since your loss and you are experiencing symptoms such as intensified sadness, inability to enjoy life and can focus on little besides your loss, please reach out to a CCMH provider. We want to help you restore your life to one of joy, meaning, and purpose. 

 

Disclaimer 

 

The Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not provide specific medical advice for individual cases. Comanche County Memorial Hospital does not endorse any medical or professional services obtained through information provided on this site, articles on the site or any links on this site.

 

Use of the information obtained by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not replace medical advice given by a qualified medical provider to meet the medical needs of our readers or others.

 

While content is frequently updated, medical information changes quickly. Information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies or typographical errors. For questions or concerns, please contact us at contact@ccmhhealth.com.

Seven Ways to Support a Survivor of Suicide Loss

On November 17th, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is observed. No one wants to have a connection to this day. Grief and loss are difficult enough to experience without the shock of someone we love taking their own life.

Those that are left behind after suicide have a difficult journey ahead of them. They may also feel a wide variety of emotions. These emotions may include sadness to anger to even unnecessary guilt if suicide loss survivors feel they should have done something to prevent the loss from taking place. They need much support from friends and family. Here are seven tips to show suicide loss survivors you care as they walk their grief journey.

 

Be very careful with your words.

 

Sometimes some of the cliche statements made when someone experiences a loss have the opposite effect of what we intended. Telling someone that their loved one “is in a better place” for example, may be painful even if they believe that statement deep down. Such statements seem dismissive as if suicide loss survivors should just “get over it”.

Also, don’t try to tell a loss survivor that he or she should feel differently. Guilt is a very common feeling with loss, and it will pass although it may take awhile. Statements such as “No one blames you” are better than “You shouldn’t feel guilty.”

You may be tempted to avoid the situation to avoid saying the wrong thing. This can hurt and seem dismissive too. A heartfelt look, hug and an “I’m sorry” can go much further than you realize.

 

Let loss survivors lead the conversations.

 

Allow suicide loss survivors to talk about the deceased person as much as they want. Don’t try to “distract” them when they want to talk about the deceased. It may not be comfortable conversations for you, but remember that the grief they carry is constantly with them. Eventually the conversations will become less frequent, but know they need a listening ear from time to time.


Likewise, don’t force them to talk about it. Grief is a very personal thing. No two people handle it the same. When the loss survivor wants a distraction, allow them that as well. Grief is not over and done. It comes and goes for a long time.


Don’t try to make loss survivors  “feel better.”

 

You can’t make someone feel better when they are grieving as much as you wish you could. Suggesting they should be in a better place when it comes to dealing with their grief suggests that what happened was not a “big deal.”

You cannot force someone through grief faster either. It is a path that in some ways must be walked alone. Survivors of suicide loss as with all survivors of loss, don’t want to feel better when they begin grieving. It may take weeks, months or years before they feel like “themselves” again. A great tragedy has taken place in their lives and in many ways they can never be the same again.


Treat loss survivors as you always have.

 

Even though grief must be walked alone, that does not mean you should leave someone alone completely. Even if the loss survivor says “no” one hundred times, still invite him or her to join you on outings like you always did before. Don’t take a refusal to get out of the house personally. Even though it may seem at the time that your friendship is not important anymore, loss survivors need your friendship more than ever before. Eventually, he or she will accept your invitation again.

 

Check on loss survivors in the evening.

 

Daily routines are filled with needed distractions for loss survivors. Evenings can seem long and difficult because he or she may be alone with nothing to do but think. This is a good time to call or stop by. Small daily tasks and self care can seem overwhelming when you’re struggling with loss.  Stopping by with his or her favorite meal will be very appreciated.

 

Remember that grief doesn’t stop with the funeral.

 

Everyone else seems to “move on” after the funeral. This can make loss more difficult for those who are close to the deceased. Check on loss survivors frequently months down the road. Chances are they are still struggling, but will try to hide their feelings since everyone else is back to their routines.

 

Remember significant dates.   

 

Nothing shows someone you care more than simple acknowledgment. Know the dates that are important to him or her- birthdays, anniversaries and death dates. A simple note or card can mean a lot to him or her. Offer to accompany them to a favorite spot to share memories of their loved one or to the cemetery to place fresh flowers at the gravesite.

If you are struggling with grief, you have our sincerest sympathies. We invite you to take place in our grief education and support services. Learn more by visiting  ccmhhealth.com/pastoral-care/.

 

Disclaimer

The Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not provide specific medical advice for individual cases. Comanche County Memorial Hospital does not endorse any medical or professional services obtained through information provided on this site, articles on the site or any links on this site.

Use of the information obtained by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not replace medical advice given by a qualified medical provider to meet the medical needs of our readers or others.

While content is frequently updated, medical information changes quickly. Information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies or typographical errors. For questions or concerns, please contact us at contact@ccmhhealth.com.