Have you experienced a loss in your life? Do you feel like you have moved forward from that loss? Grief is a valid reaction to a loss. It is okay to feel hurt, confused, and upset. You might even find it hard to face the days of significance. But for some people, it can be too much. Some might experience complicated grief without knowing its difference from normal grief. So, here are 5 signs that you might be experiencing complicated grief rather than just grief.
- Delayed coping
In the DSM 5 or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, complicated grief is referred to as Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder (American Psychological Association, 2013). This classification separates complicated grief from normal grief by its period. Grief has its process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When you experience a loss, you go through the process of distraught to healing. But when you are still in the grieving process for longer than how it should be maybe you are already experiencing a different kind of grief. Professionals suggest that you experience the grieving process for 6 months to a year. When you are grieving beyond that period, maybe you are already in complicated grief.
- Not Just Sadness
It is normal for you to feel sad when you lose something or someone important. You feel lonely and in a constantly low mood. In the grieving process, low moods like depression and anger are part of the healing. But with complicated grief, these two are not the only negative emotions that persist for several months. When you experience complicated grief, you constantly feel mad, irritated, and even reckless (Morrow, 2022). You are impulsive in making decisions. Sometimes, complicated grief may even lead to self-destructive behavior.
- Trapped In The Loss
Grieving leads us to feel the loneliness of being left behind. Memories come back and we feel sad, maybe even cry. Important moments like anniversaries, birthdays, and celebrations make it hard for us to process the loss. But when you experience complicated grief, the weight of the loss is amplified. Moving forward is hard because you find yourself thinking about the loss more often than not. You think of all the memories you made and feel like you are experiencing the loss all over again. It also prevents you from processing the grief because of the extended period of denial. You may constantly avoid the reality of the loss (Morrow, 2022). In complicated grief, moving forward is difficult because you are constantly feeling the weight of the loss.
Grief can slow you down. You may want to take a break from work. You may want to stay at home for a while. But soon you will gain back your energy and you will do things again. You will have the energy to do the things you enjoy. With complicated grief, this might not happen. You may find yourself at work, but you will have a hard time focusing. You may be physically present but your mind is not there. You might find yourself draining your energy more easily than usual. You do not enjoy the things you usually do. You may be participating in the things you used to do but you never have the same enthusiasm and energy anymore (American Psychological Association, 2013). You would rather stay in bed and do nothing than immerse yourself in experiences that will help you move forward.
- Suicidal Thoughts
Grief will make you feel alone. It makes it hard for you to do things without that person. But you will cope. You will slowly learn to do things without them anymore. Complicated grief is not like that. You constantly think of the loss that you want to be with that person. The thought of living without them is too daunting that you’d prefer to be with them than live your life. Intrusive negative thoughts constantly appear in your mind (American Psychological Association, 2013). When complicated grief gets to this point, you might need to seek help.
Grief is a horrible feeling. It can be like an anchor that weighs you down. No matter how much you try to it will keep you stuck. The goal of this article is for you to know that your experience of complicated grief is valid and you are not alone in the battle. Many people find it hard to move forward. If you feel like you are having these signs, please try to reach out for help maybe from a friend or a professional.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Conditions for Further Study. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).
Morrow, A. (2022, June 13). Differences between normal and complicated grief. Verywell Health. Retrieved July 12, 2022, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/grief-and-mourning-process-1132545