Help with Grief

Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of someone we love very much. Everyone who loves grieves when that loved one is lost. Grief can be very painful, especially in the days and weeks right after a loved one dies, but grief itself is not an illness or a medical problem. Over time, the pain of grief lessens and the grieving person is able to put emotional energy back into activities of life, like work and hobbies, and go back to enjoying relationships with other people. As time passes, memories of the loved one who died become less painful. Most people get through their grief with time and the care and support of family, friends, and people in their community.

On the other hand, some people get stuck in their grief. Sometimes, the pain of grief does not get better over time, or even gets worse. Some people have depression or anxiety that gets in the way of grief. Some still cant accept the loss, cant move on with their life, or still feel emotionally numb even months after their loved one died. These are signs that grief may not get better on its own. Experts call this Complicated Grief, and there is help available.

What are the signs of Complicated Grief?

  • Feeling stuck in grief (meaning that the pain of grief is not gradually getting better over time).
  • Grief that interferes with function at work, at home, or in relationships for months after the loss of a loved one.
  • Some of the following feelings present for months after the loss a your loved one:
    • Feeling stunned, surprised, or shocked by the loss.
    • Feeling like the loss is hard to accept.
    • Feeling unable to move on with life.
    • Feeling emotionally numb.
    • Feeling sad most of the time.
    • Feeling disinterested in things that are usually enjoyed.

If you or someone you love is showing signs of complicated grief, it may be helpful to talk with someone. The Trauma Survivors Network at Vanderbilt is here to help. Please contact Susan Sutton Clawson, PhD, MPH at (615) 936-7375 for more information.

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