When grief gets complicated
Grief is non-linear and personal to the individual, with people experiencing a range of emotions and dealing with loss in different ways. When someone is bereaved it can often be one of the most distressing experiences that people face. For most people, how we experience grief is normal and as the feelings of grief slowly ease we learn how to cope with our grief and move forward. Family, friends, work colleagues, faith groups and neighbours can all help to support someone who is grieving by listening and allowing space for the bereaved to speak about the person who has died. Writing a letter, phoning someone or arranging to visit can all help. Be aware that grief can last a long time so it could be helpful to contact the person on special anniversaries or during significant times. You could also signpost people to community bereavement help points and support groups in the local area or national bereavement telephone services. There are many specific bereavement support groups available who offer for example, support after the death of a child or for people bereaved by suicide. Some people may require a referral for bereavement counselling that enables people to explore their feelings and learn coping strategies.
However, sometimes these feelings we have when we are grieving don't improve. People can continue feeling overwhelmed with painful emotions that have a negative impact on daily living severely affecting a persons physical, emotional and mental health. This is what is known as complicated grief.
With complicated grief the usual feelings that are experienced after the loss of someone or something significant do not ease but instead can increase. People may experience feelings of intense sadness and pain, strongly focusing or avoiding reminders of the person who died, feel detached and lack meaning or purpose in life. This can lead to social isolation, difficulty managing normal routines, depression, feelings of guilt and wishing they had died with their loved one.
As with many mental health disorders it is not known what can cause complicated grief. However, several factors can increase the risk of experiencing complicated grief including sudden or violent deaths, a death of a child, lack of support systems, adverse childhood experiences and those with a medical history of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Complicated grief can affect physical and mental health, without support a person may develop anxiety , depression, have suicidal thoughts, sleep disturbance, issues with activities of daily living and be at an increased risk of alcohol or substance misuse. Remember, grief is unique to each individual and often complicated grief can result through many circumstances. After a bereavement allow time to grieve and adjust to changes that are different because of grief. If you are struggling to cope please speak with someone about how you're feeling, reach out and ask for help. Remember, #ItsOKNotToBeOK
For help and support:
CRUSE National Helpline
0844 477 9400
firstname.lastname@example.org (Young persons support)
0300 123 3393
Childhood Bereavement Network
020 7843 6000
Grief Encounter (Children and young people)
020 8371 8455
CRY– Cardiac Risk in the Young
01924 200799 (Mon-Fri 9am-4pm)
0845 203 0405
Lullaby Trust– Information and Support for parents whose babies have died as a result of Sudden infant death
0808 802 6868 (Bereavement helpline)
0808 802 6869 (Information)
SCARD- Support and Care after Road Death and Injury
0345 123 5542
Support after Murder and Manslaughter