Devastated by Loss: Understanding Complicated Grief

Despite common wisdom, there are no fixed stages of grief. In fact, the stages of grief you’ve probably heard about were developed to explain what patients go through when facing their own diagnosis with a terminal disease.

Although there are some similarities with the kind of grief that occurs when someone loses a loved one, the emotional response is not the same. Grief affects everyone differently, and if you’ve lost a loved one, you may feel a wide range of emotions, some of them unexpected.

People who have lost a loved one may feel sorrow, anger, disbelief or even guilt. Many people are able to move beyond their grief, accepting their reality and making a new life. For others, it doesn’t happen that way. In fact, about 15 percent of people who have suffered a loss experience what’s known as “complicated grief”.

If you’re still stuck a year after a loss, you might be experiencing what’s called complicated grief. People who suffer with this condition have trouble healing. They often experience depression and have suicidal thoughts, losing interest in activities that used to be important and having trouble carrying out simple, everyday tasks. Complicated grief involves a deep yearning for the lost loved one, which supersedes everything else and makes it difficult for the bereaved person to function.

If you haven’t been able to move on after a year, it’s important to seek grief counseling. Rather than encouraging you to let go of your lost loved one and move on, many grief experts believe it’s better to foster a constructive, continuing bond with the person who has died. By focusing on good memories, envisioning an internal dialogue with the person and imagining how your loved one would respond to current situations, you can begin to accept your own grief. Only by embracing your grief and looking for meaning in the loss, they say, can you begin to adjust to your new reality.

One way to celebrate your happy memories is by planning a life-honoring funeral. If you’ve suffered a loss, we at Skylawn can help you plan an end-of-life service that celebrates your loved one and helps your whole family begin to heal. We’d also be pleased to talk to you about preplanning so that you can help your loved ones celebrate your life after you’ve gone. Visit our website for more information, or give us a call at (650) 227-3142 to learn about all we have to offer.

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