Experiencing Complicated Grief Written By Zoe Avery of True North Counseling

Experiencing Complicated Grief

Written by student intern Zoe Avery. Zoe is currently attending University of Louisville for Couples and Family therapy and has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Murray State University. Learn more about her work on our staff page

Experiencing grief can be one of the most intense seasons of some people’s lives. Often during our grieving processes, we feel as though the pain we feel has gone on forever and may not ever end. While these thoughts and struggles are normal parts of our individualized grieving processes, some people may experience extreme or prolonged versions of grief after the loss of a loved one. 

What is Complicated Grief? 

Following a loss, a multitude of symptoms are considered normal and expected, being applicable to both normal and complicated grief. The primary difference between these two is the length of time these symptoms are experienced. When someone experiences complicated grief, their severe symptoms may last over a year, never fading or tapering as with normal grief. Complicated grief may also be characterized by symptoms worsening over time, inhibiting healing and moving forward, back to a life similar to before the loss. 

Symptoms of Complicated Grief

  • Intense sorrow, pain and rumination over the loss of your loved one
  • Focus on little else but your loved one’s death
  • Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
  • Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one (1)

Causes and Risk Factors

While exact causes are not fully known, complicated grief may be more likely to occur in individuals with previous mental health disorders. There may also be a link between complicated grief and the nature of the loss experienced, such as violent deaths or the death of a child. Seeking help or support early on in the grief process may be helpful in subsiding or decreasing the symptoms experienced. 

1.Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, June 19). Complicated grief. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/complicated-grief/symptoms-causes/syc-20360374