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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

7 Signs of Complicated Grief

Part 2 of Could It Be Complicated Grief?

Now to the 7 signs of Complicated Grief.  This is just a brief list of what I consider the most serious signs that should warrant at least a consult with a professional.  There are more signs (symptoms) that you can read about on the Mayo Clinic site.

1) Suicidal thoughts or actions
One of the most alarming signs of complicated grief can be suicidal thoughts or actions.  This is different from the thoughts in uncomplicated grief of wanting to join the deceased love one or wishing to change places with the deceased in order for them to live.  This is not a sign that should be taken lightly. If there are ANY concerns regarding suicide ideas, plans, or attempts—DO NOT WAIT—contact someone immediately.  Suicide is one of the top causes of death in the U.S. and most people will tell someone about his or her plans within days of the event.  It is better to err on the side of caution and save a life.  NationalSuicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

2) Depression or unrelenting sadness
This is not the initial sadness when thinking about the deceased loved one.  This is a deep sadness that you can’t shake after many months that affects every part of your life and isn’t getting better.  Depression is often a complication of complicated grief and may require professional support and treatment.  Often in our society we say we are “depressed” when what we mean is that we are sad or upset about a singular event—this is not the same thing as a true depressive disorder.  If you aren’t sure what you are feeling is depression you can consult a professional who can do an assessment with you to help you to understand what you are feeling.  Depression is treatable with either talk therapy or behavioral therapy to change the negative or faulty thinking that lead you to be depressed and keeps you there.  In addition there are medications that have been found to be effective in treating some forms of depression.  The National Institute of Mental Health has a website with a great deal of helpful information about depression and where to seek help.

3) Life is No Longer Enjoyable
This sign is often associated with depression as many of the signs/symptoms of complicated grief do overlap with depression symptoms.  For this sign the person suffering from complicated grief may feel like they will never feel like they did before and are merely putting one foot in front of the other as they trod through each day.  Activities and people that they use to enjoy no longer have that same feeling.  If asked, the individual would find it practically impossible to name anything they would want to do that would bring them joy.

4) Withdrawing from Social Activities
As the time goes by after the death of the loved one and other people continue on with their lives, the person with complicated grief may feel like they are alone in their grief and that they are the only one who still cares about the loved one.  This also makes the person feel like the world around them is foreign to them because they no longer no how to act/react in public situations.  These feelings along with the feelings of depression will keep the person from wanting to participate in social activities and lead to isolation.  This becomes a dangerous loop because isolation makes it more difficult to move beyond the constant thoughts about the loss and therefore keep the person from venturing out into the world.

5) Bitterness, Anger, Irritability, Agitation
There is often guilt and anger surrounding the death of the loved one, especially if this was a violent death.  These negative feelings are not assuaged by positive feelings and just feed upon each other and this leads to the irritability and agitation that the person with complicated grief experiences. 

6) No Hope in the Future
The person with complicated grief cannot imagine a future without the loved one in it.  Trying to think about a future like that can bring on feelings of guilt and anger.  This can further exacerbate the depressive feelings and make the individual feel hopeless and helpless.  Without meaning or purpose for life the individual can see no future and is incapable of hoping for a different future without the loved one.

7) Difficulty handling normal activities and routines
When there is no hope or meaning, the individual has trouble accomplishing even the most routine activity.  It can be rough for the person with complicated grief to take care of their needs, to handle daily chores, or to concentrate enough to hold down a job.  Some people will look from the outside as if they are coping and handling their responsibilities adequately but enternally the person is struggling to just keep up.

Once again I would like to mention how important it is to know the signs of complicated grief in order to seek out treatment to prevent more serious psychological or physical disorders.  In addition I want to reiterate this post and the previous post were strictly informational and that I am neither a psychiatrist nor a medical doctor.  I have provided links to well-known and respected sites if you would like more information on the subject. Whenever there is any question about an individual’s well-being a trusted member of the medical community should be consulted.

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