What Is Complicated Grief?

What Is Complicated Grief?Complicated grief is an intense grief that dominates a person’s everyday life. While most people cope with grief in healthy ways and come to accept a loved one’s death, those with complicated grief get “stuck” in their grief. As a result, their work, their relationships, and their outlook on life suffer. According to a 2012 article from Psychology Today, complicated grief occurs in approximately 10 to 20 percent of people who have lost a loved one.

According to a 2004 report from the American Psychological Association (APA), complicated grief can often be caused by several factors. Factors that may lead to complicated grief include the following:

  • Sudden, unexpected death
  • Traumatic death
  • Loss of a child or infant
  • Excessive dependency in the previous relationship
  • History of mental illness in the bereaved

In a 2011 article, The Mayo Clinic listed several characteristics of someone who is struggling with complicated grief. Signs of complicated grief include the following:

  • Extreme focus on the loss
  • Intense longing for the deceased
  • Difficulty accepting the loss of the loved one
  • Belief that life has no purpose or meaning
  • Numbness and detachment from others
  • Preoccupation with one’s sorrow
  • Bitterness, anger, irritability, and agitation over one’s loss
  • Deep sadness
  • Withdrawal from normal social activities
  • Inability to return to a normal routine
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Inability to trust others

While everyone experiences these symptoms with the loss of a loved one, the depth of these experiences and the length of time someone experiences them are at the heart of complicated grief.

Complicated Grief and Addiction

People experiencing complicated grief will often go to great lengths to find relief for their intense emotions and debilitating sorrow. Some will turn to drugs as a reprieve from their suffering. Unfortunately, drugs and addiction to drugs does not provide lasting relief. In the end, the grief is still there after the drugs wear off. In addition, the grief is compounded by the shame and misery of addiction.

Coping with Complicated Grief

Rather than using drugs to numb yourself to the complicated grief you experience, you can find other coping techniques to help you work through your feelings. Because of the intense and debilitating nature of complicated grief, the best course of action is finding a professional counselor to help you find your way out of the grief. This will likely involve many elements, including discussing the loss, determining factors that led to the complicated grief, discussing future goals, scheduling positive and pleasurable events, and possibly attending support groups. The goal is not to forget the loved one, but rather to learn how to cope and adapt to life after the loss.

Dealing with Your Addiction

If you are struggling with complicated grief that has led to drug use or addiction, we can help. You can call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline at any time. You can talk with an admissions counselor about your situation, and together you can determine the best course of treatment for your unique situation. Grief doesn’t have to destroy your life. Neither does addiction. Call us today and start on the road to healing and recovery.