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Grief is an emotion that can run deep, seriously affecting lives. It doesn’t matter if it was caused by losing a loved one to cancer or freak trucking accidents, experiencing some level of grief is a completely normal and expected reaction. Sometimes, though, that grief can exceed what most would consider normal, passing into the territory of what is known as “complicated grief.” According to Mayo Clinic, individuals will very often have some variations in how they experience four major stages of grieving:

  • Accepting the reality of the loss
  • Being open to experiencing the pain of loss
  • Adjusting to a new reality in which the deceased is no longer present
  • Having other relationships

Complicated grief, however, is grief that carries on more than a year after the traumatic death of a loved one, and that falls well outside the parameters of what’s considered average. It can have far reaching consequences but can be readily identified by some specific symptoms. Let’s proceed by taking a look at what you should be watching out for in cases where you suspect complicated grief.

Recognizing Complicated Grief

The largest distinguishing factor between normal grief and complicated grief is the fact that complicated grief symptoms last for months longer than normal grief symptoms. Other than that, though, they are largely similar and include the following:

  • Numbness over loss and disbelief over the death
  • Inability to accept the death of their loved one
  • Preoccupation over their loved one’s death
  • Bitterness, anger, and intense sorrow
  • Inability to feel joy over good memories
  • Self-blame over their loved one’s death
  • Feeling that life is meaningless
  • A loss of identity or purpose
  • Wanting to die to join their lost love one

That last point is particularly troubling, especially when it manifests with complicated grief long after the loved one’s death occurred. If you are experiencing these symptoms yourself, or you know someone else closed to the deceased individual who is exhibiting these signs, it’s important that they seek assistance from mental health professionals, as this is one of the best ways to process complicated grief.

Tips For Coping With Loss

In addition to seeking the help of professional health care providers, there are a number of self care tips you should observe to help with getting past the trauma of loss. For starters, being patient with yourself and allowing time to experience emotions without judgement is a step that’s critical to the healing process. Beyond that, though, you should try to do your best to maintain a normal routine, limit major life changes, and take care of yourself both physically and mentally to speed your recovery.