Jul 2023
Complicated Grief , that watershed moment ….

Complicated Grief: How It's Different - Modern Loss


Death is like taxes, we all are gunna feel it.

Death, it happens to the best of us and thankfully the worst of us LOL. I have not had anyone really close to me die and I really am in the sad old slapper age bracket ( just take a look at my bedside drawer ) I can only say I have been lucky, because luck runs out for those of us who live a fairly long life when it comes to the necessary but very deeply visceral experience of loss .

Shedding tears ,flowers, and moving on

When my nan died, I was 23 and had not seen her for many years and even though we had been close when I was a child, I was used to not seeing her regularly. I was of course upset and shed a tear and sent some flowers across the seas to say a beautiful goodbye, but that loss was soon well integrated into my life, and I think that is what Nan would have wanted me to do.

Complicated grief: What Perls would say is a Gestalt moment in time. 


Image of a sad woman undergoing complicated grief

Grief is a natural and normal response to loss, as someone far wiser than me said “it’s the price we pay for love “and I think that sums it up very well. There is always a flip side to the coin with anything in life, the yin and the yang, good and bad karma, but sometimes when something hits like a Mack truck, and we are left reeling. It can signify a much deeper and more visceral series of experiences that can hit that gestalt spot and send it to a zone of despair and derailment. Its so much bigger than the sum of its parts .  That can become more challenging and complex, leading to what is known as complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder. Complicated grief is characterized by an intense and prolonged grieving process that can interfere with a person’s ability to function and carry out daily activities.


What to look out for:

Here are some features that may be associated with complicated grief:

  1. Severe and Continuing Grief: The feelings of sadness, emptiness, or loss remain intense and do not improve over time as they typically would in a normal grief process.
  2. Preoccupation with the loved one who has passed or been lost to them. Constantly thinking about the person who has passed away, longing for their presence, and feeling a deep yearning to be with them again.


  1. Evading Grief Triggers: Trying to circumvent situations, places, or activities that remind the person of the loved one to escape feeling overpowering emotions.


  1. Difficulty Moving Forward: Struggling to accept and integrate the loss and adapt to life without the person who passed away. Finding it hard to see world in the future with out them by their side.


  1. Negative Emotions: Feelings of bitterness, anger, or guilt related to the loss or circumstances surrounding it.


  1. Isolation and Withdrawal: Pulling away from social activities and personal relationships, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness and lack of motivation.


  1. Loss of Interest: Losing interest in activities that were once gratifying or meaningful.



  1. Physical Symptoms: Experiencing physical symptoms such as aches, fatigue, headaches, or changes in appetite related to grief. Eating too much or too little, poor sleep or too much sleep. Not taking care of their body or personal hygiene. Drinking too much or using drugs or prescription medications for too long.


  1. Difficulty Trusting Others: Having trouble trusting others or forming new relationships after the loss. Feeling afraid to try new things and meet new potential partners or friendships.


. Many of these symptoms can mirror depression or garden variety grief so it’s important to be able to sort out what are the moving parts to your experience and how do they collude at this point to determine the colour and shape of your perspective and feelings. Of particular note here is that complicated grief often comes about as the result of a collection of mitigating factors. It’s often a build- upon set of experiences and happenings that all together collect to weigh you down and drain your psycho- emotional tank.

For example, for me it was loss of 2 jobs, loss of status and then a sudden loss of my relationship. It was all too much and sent me into a spiral. Its only now when I reflect on that time that I realise what I was experiencing was pretty normal. At the time it didn’t feel that way to me. I felt that I was weak and spineless and couldn’t cope with what to other people are the ups and downs of life.

It was only after calling a therapist and having some counselling were my feelings validated. Ill never forget the psychologist, looking at me after I told my story and said quite simply “I’m not surprised you feel that way, I think I would if all that had happened to me “. Lightbulb moment and I sighed with relief. I bloody love therapy LOL.

Experiencing grief and complicated grief is like having a huge emotional backpack that you carry around daily, unable to put it down even for a few seconds of relief that is filled with a cords, wires, and rope, all tangled up and needing to be unpacked, de tangled and sorted. Realising along the way the purpose of each smoothed out piece and how it fits into the layers of your pain and sense of loss.

Grief counselling or therapy can be beneficial in processing these complex emotions and learning coping strategies. Connecting with support groups or individuals who have experienced similar losses can also provide a sense of understanding and comfort.

Remember that everyone grieves differently, and there is no specific timeline for healing. It’s okay to seek help and take the time you need to work through your emotions. If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or a helpline in your country.