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Complicated Grief

Grief is as natural as it is individual, particularly in times of loss. And whether individuals experience their grief as sadness, lost sleep, memories, depression, or anger, it is bereavement all the same.
In a recent New York Times article written by Jane E. Brody, a keynote speaker at a Plaza Jewish Community Chapel Conference, the topic of complicated grief is discussed. Specifically, the article discusses that while most survivors adjust to a loss within six months of death, others simply don’t.
And in these situations, complicated grief manifests.

What is Complicated Grief?

Regardless of whether a loss is sudden or unexpected, complicated grief can occur. And when it does, disruptive reactions that often last for more than six months, or even years, and cause adverse health are the result.
While common symptoms can vary from person to person, common complicated grief symptoms include:

  • Intense yearning, longing, or emotional pain
  • Preoccupying thoughts on a frequent basis
  • Intrusive thoughts and memories of the deceased
  • Disbelief or an inability to accept the loss; and
  • Extreme difficulty imagining a life with meaning without the deceased

Who is Most Susceptible to Complicated Grief?

It’s possible for any individual to experience complicated grief. But typically, there are certain individuals more susceptible to the symptoms than others.
According to Dr. Shear of the Columbia University School of Social Work and College of Physicians and Surgeons, the risk of complicated grief ranges from 10 to 20 percent for those who have lost a romantic partner and higher for individuals who have lost of child.

However, the condition is most common for women older than 60 who have experienced a loss via a sudden or violent death, causing a major, long-term life disruption fraught with the symptoms of complicated grief.

When is Treatment the Right Option?

Common grief following a loss requires no official medical treatment, but complicated grief is different. And typically, the screening process for complicated grief doesn’t just involve a question and answer session. Instead, it involves a Grief Intensity Scale designed to assist individuals in the assessment of their own grief.
However, in a study of 30,000 survivors, only 7 to 10 percent screened positive on the scale. As such, it can be more difficult than once thought to identify which individuals can benefit from antidepressants or other forms of therapy-based treatments.
Of course, it’s important to note that complicated grief must be treated for some as it causes abnormalities that can impair memory, disrupt emotional regulation, prolong the common symptoms described above, and even increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Treating Complicated Grief

Although antidepressants are a common option for the treatment of complicated grief, complicated grief treatment is more effective. The approach replicates strategies found in cognitive behavioral therapy to produce faster recovery periods for affected individuals, sometimes within just 16 weeks.
This highly-structured approach focuses on the future and monitoring grief reactions to slowly adapt individuals to their reality without their loved one. By doing so, each patient is able to revise their goals and accept their loss.

An Exploration of Reactions, An Exploration of Self

Complicated grief is as much about an exploration of one’s reactions to loss as an exploration of oneself and one’s goals once the reality of loss is accepted.
And this process, like grief itself, is different for every individual.
Source Information
Blog written by Ashley S.
For more information on this topic please click here to read: ‘When Grief Won’t Relent’ by Jane Brodie.
Click here to watch Jane Brody’s keynote address at Plaza’s Conference.

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