Bereavement is a natural response to a loss, where one experiences grief, hurt and sadness. During this time, they require plenty of emotional support and help in handling tasks such as arranging funeral services.
The intensity of grief usually fades with time for most people where they are able to adapt to the loss, restore their functioning and go on with their lives. However, for some bereaved people, things don’t improve. The intense reaction of acute grief persists where it could disrupt their everyday lives. This chronic condition is known as complicated grief, which will be explored further below.
What is complicated grief?
A grieving person will typically experience the universal stages of grief and mourning: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually, acceptance. With that said, everyone grieves differently – and the five stages of loss do not necessarily occur in any specific order. There are also different levels of intensity experienced and varying lengths of time spent in each step.
Complicated grief occurs when the intensity of grief persists indefinitely. For some, people have remained in the state of bereavement 2 years after their loss, or even many years later where that initial pain of loss continues. It is also accompanied by impairments in daily functioning. Take a look at some of the prominent symptoms below.
Extended denial of the loss and emotional numbness
Denial is a normal stage in the grief process. Typically, one may not respond to negative feelings and experiences. Conversely, they will also feel numbness which prevents them from feeling positive emotions or participate in constructive interactions. Extended denial is not immediately noticeable until after several months have passed since the loved one’s passing.
But if you notice that a bereaved friend or family member is now disinterested in activities they previously enjoyed and prefers isolation, you should check in with them. They could also be excessively avoiding places or activities that remind them of the person they lost.
Intense sorrow, bitterness or anger
Intense sorrow and bitterness are often the outcomes of ruminating on negative thoughts. This frequently materialises through symptoms such as cynicism, distrust, paranoia, and hostility. As they are unable to accept that the loss has occurred, they may also experience intense and persistent longing for the deceased. It may not be surprising if they display symptoms of anger – whether it’s angry at them being abandoned by the deceased, angry that their life has changed or angry at the extent of the pain.
Extreme focus on the deceased’s death
In the initial period after a loss, there are often strong feelings of sadness and yearning along with anger, anxiety and remorse. For those with complicated grief, they have difficulty managing those emotions, and it can be difficult to concentrate on anything else. Their thoughts are mostly focused on the person who died, and they are unable to balance the pain with respite. Those strong emotions remain uncontrollable for them – which end up dominating their life, and they have trouble carrying out normal routines.
Going for counselling soon after a death may help one to process the grief and learn healthy coping skills. Turning to family members, friends and social support groups can also help to overcome the loss. If you notice the symptoms of complicated grief in yourself or anyone around you, seeking therapy and treatment can bring some relief, emotionally and physically.
Attending the deceased’s funeral service can provide the opportunity for you to bid farewell, gain acceptance over their passing and pave the way to move forward in life. Be it a Christian or Buddhist funeral, engage with our experienced team at Casket Fairprice to provide an honourable send-off for your loved one.