As a therapist and a widower, I understand the pain and complexity of complicated grief. I lost my spouse in a traumatic event. It was a devastating experience that left me feeling lost and alone. I struggled to come to terms with the loss, and I couldn't shake off the intense sadness and longing I felt for my spouse. I soon realized that I was experiencing complicated grief, also known as a trauma response.
Complicated grief is a severe form of grief when an individual cannot recover from losing a loved one. It is characterized by a prolonged and intense period of grief that can last for years and lead to significant emotional, psychological, and physical problems. I was experiencing symptoms such as persistent yearning for my spouse, intense sorrow and despair, difficulty accepting the reality of the loss, and difficulty engaging in activities I once enjoyed. I also had symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Research has shown that complicated grief can be caused by various factors, including a sudden or traumatic loss, a complex or unresolved relationship with the deceased, a lack of social support, or a previous history of mental health problems. It can also be caused by a lack of closure or a sense of unfinished business related to the loss.
As a therapist, I knew that it was essential to seek help, and I knew that treatment for complicated grief typically involves a combination of therapy and medication. I engaged in therapy which included individual counseling, support groups, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helped me to process my grief, work through my emotions, and learn coping strategies.
Coping with complicated grief can be difficult, but several strategies can help. Some coping skills for complicated grief include:
- Accepting the reality of the loss: It's essential to acknowledge and accept that the loved one is gone and that the pain of the loss will not disappear overnight.
- Seeking professional help: A therapist or counselor can provide support and guidance in working through complicated grief.
- Joining a support group: Talking to others who are going through similar experiences can provide comfort and understanding.
- Engaging in self-care activities: Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being can help alleviate some symptoms of complicated grief.
- Finding healthy ways to remember the loved one: Creating a memorial or finding a way to honor the memory of the loved one can provide a sense of closure.
- Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Finding activities that bring joy: Engaging in activities that were once enjoyed can help to improve mood and provide a sense of purpose.
- Creating a new normal: Grief can change the way of life, and it's crucial to find new ways to adapt and create a new normal.
- Allow yourself to feel the emotions: It is essential to allow yourself to feel the feelings and not to suppress them but try to express them in healthy ways.
- Be patient with yourself: Understand that healing takes time, and giving yourself the time and space you need is essential.
It's important to remember that everyone's experience with complicated grief is different, and it's normal to feel triggered or overwhelmed by memories or emotions. If you are experiencing symptoms of complicated grief, seeking help from a therapist or counselor trained in trauma response can be beneficial in working through the complex grief and finding ways to cope and heal.
In addition to the strategies mentioned above, it's also essential to consider the following:
- Address any unresolved feelings or issues related to the loss: Complicated grief can often be exacerbated by unresolved feelings or issues related to the loss. A therapist can help you work through these feelings and find closure.
- Learn about the grief process: Understanding the stages of grief and what to expect can help you navigate the process more effectively.
- Be mindful of triggers: Certain things, such as anniversaries or holidays, can be difficult. Be aware of these triggers and plan accordingly.
- Find ways to cope with the physical symptoms: Grief can take a physical toll on the body. Engaging in regular exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep can help to alleviate some of the physical symptoms of grief.
In conclusion, coping with complicated grief can be difficult, but it is possible. It's essential to be patient and give yourself the time and space you need to heal. Seek professional help, engage in self-care, find ways to remember and honor the loved one, and connect with others who understand what you're going through. With the right strategies and support, you can begin to heal and move forward.
"Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim." - Vicki Harrison
"The Hope Team"