Grief is normal after a loss of any sort. We usually relate grief to death, but people can feel grief over losses like that of a job, a relationship, or a child moving away. Grief can feel overwhelming. It can take over your thoughts, emotions, and life.
Healthy grief begins to resolve after a period of time. You have let yourself experience all the feelings of loss; you’ve cried, yelled, journaled, talked with sympathetic friends. You accept that the loss happened. You start to adjust to the new reality of your life. You begin to feel good again and to feel hope for the future. You begin to have peace again.
Grief tends to come and go in waves, but the waves get slower and less powerful over time. The timing on this adjustment varies from loss to loss and person to person, but generally, it starts to resolve within about six months.
Sometimes a loss is too much for the normal grieving process to deal with. Then you may develop complicated grief. Complicated grief usually requires help to work through and resolve. Signs of complicated grief can include:
- intense pain and anguish that stays severe
- being unable to focus on anything except the loss
- constant yearning for the lost
- feelings of numbness or detachment
- difficulty accepting the loss
- ongoing, severe bitterness
- extreme focus on the loss OR avoiding all mention and remembrance of it
- inability to function in normal life
- new addictive and reckless behavior
- withdrawing from social activities
- irritability, agitation
- hopelessness about the future
- difficulty trusting or caring for others
Complicated grief most often comes when there have been a lot of losses close together, when a loss is unexpected and traumatic, when there are other mental health factors involved, or when there are serious unresolved issues surrounding the loss.
When a person is experiencing complicated grief, they are stuck. They are not able to deal with the loss in a normal and constructive way. They cannot move on and resume their lives and other relationships without skillful help.
If you find yourself experiencing grief, especially complicated grief, or if a friend or loved one is going through this, one of the most healing things you can do is use professional help to work through the impact of the loss.