If you have ever experienced the loss of someone or something that was important to you, then you will know that grieving a loss is never simple.
For starters, grief hurts. A lot.
You will think your pain is settling down then something will trigger a memory and you are caught up in that pain again.
There will always be pain.
There will never be a time that it doesn’t hurt.
But for most people you learn to live with that pain and still function.
It is when grief continues and you can’t function well that grief can be considered to have become stuck and may need help to be able to function well in life.
This is what is known as Prolonged Grief Disorder.
Who Gets Prolonged Grief Disorder?
Anyone can suffer from Prolonged Grief Disorder.
Some people are more vulnerable to being affected this way. If you were particularly close to the person you are grieving, you will be more likely to be affected.
If you suffered from depression before experiencing this grief that may make you more susceptible.
If the death was sudden, traumatic or due to suicide it can also be more likely to happen.
It is important to acknowledge that Prolonged Grief Disorder is not just something that happens when someone dies, it can also happen with a job loss, the loss of a house, the loss of a country, the loss of a body part, the loss of a relationship, and so on.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent This Happening?
It is really important that you give yourself space to acknowledge what has happened and allow yourself time to experience those feelings.
Don’t be pressured by other people to “get over it”. Don’t allow the expectations of others to force you to push your feelings aside and not process them.
Do recognise you will hurt for a long time. It is likely that before you are finished the worst part of grieving you will be fed up with being so sad. That is a good sign. It means you are getting ready to learn how to live with this pain.
Be willing to get help. See a counsellor, join a support group, use the support of understanding friends and family. Be prepared to experience your grief.
How Do I Know If I Have Prolonged Grief Disorder?
The first thing to remember is that no attempt is made to diagnose Prolonged Grief Disorder until at least 12 months has elapsed since your bereavement.
I have had people come to see me who are struggling to process the death of a loved one over a year ago, but then tell me another close family member only died a few months ago. If you have two major bereavements that close together, expect to be dramatically affected. You are not suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder. You most likely need support, but you are not suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder.
This is the criteria for an official diagnosis of Prolonged Grief Disorder:
• The bereavement occurred at least 12 months ago.
• You need the above plus at least three of the points below.
• You have lost your sense of who you are,
• You struggle to believe the person is dead,
• You avoid reminders that the person is dead,
• You are still experiencing intense emotional pain (sorrow, anger, bitterness for example) related to the death,
• You are having trouble getting back to work or social involvement,
• You feel emotionally numb,
• You feel your life is meaningless,
• You feel intensely lonely or feel totally detached from life.
If you feel this may be you then it is helpful to see a specialist grief counsellor.
What About My Children?
Children will grieve differently to adults. How they grieve will depend on their developmental stage and each new developmental stage will include a new period of processing more grief.
Another issue for children is the reaching of life stages where the one who has died may have been expected to be present. This is a fresh reminder of their absence and will include a new period of processing more grief.
Teenagers are included in this as their brains are still developing.
What you may see in children is:
• They may wait for their loved one to come back. This is particularly so with small children who have trouble understanding the concept of death.
• They may be frightened other people in their life may die too. With the death of someone in their life their sense of safety is disrupted and will take time and possibly assistance to regain.
• They may develop separation anxiety and not want other people to be away from them.
• They may think they just have to complete some task in order for their loved one to be alive again. This is known as magical thinking. Children can find it hard to understand that things happen in life and they cannot control them.
• Acting out behaviours that may not appear to be related to the loss. You may expect your child to cry or be sad. But what if they become angry and combative? Or they adopt destructive behaviours? Or they act like they don’t care about anything? There are many different behaviours you may see as your child tries to process these unfamiliar and overwhelming emotions.
If your child/teen is exhibiting behaviour that may suggest they are not coping with their loss it is helpful to arrange an appointment with a specialist child counsellor. Later teens are okay with a specialist grief counsellor but I would recommend a specialist for your younger children.
How To Treat Prolonged Grief Disorder.
There are many different therapies that work well with Prolonged Grief Disorder. In my work I use talk therapy, sand play, painting, movement, journalling, writing, poetry, therapeutic cards to name a few.
Please note that there is no medication treatment for this disorder. You need to process what has happened and medications do not facilitate that.
Can I Help?
If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, whether prolonged or not, please contact me on 0409396608 or email@example.com
If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz