Labeling Grief: Normal vs. Complicated

Grief is difficult, intricate, and very complex. I think anyone walking this grief journey would surely agree. But did you know that someone actually labeled grief, normal vs. complicated? The reference suggests that the type of grief a person has is dependent on the amount of time one has been grieving?

Apparently medical science has labeled normal grief as the time period up until one year after a loved one dies. After that time if you are continuing to exhibit strong, intense sorrow over the loss of your loved one it is known as having complicated grief.

My first reaction was “Hmmm, I wonder if that person has ever suffered child loss?” Spousal loss? What about those who have lost both a spouse and a child? Is there really a time frame for grieving?

Everyone grieves in their own way and I believe each person’s time frame is different. Placing an exact time period, such as designating one year for normal grief, creates an unrealistic expectation. In turn that expectation is unnecessary and can lead to stress and feelings of inadequacy.

There are many mommas I know who are still grieving the loss of a child who ran ahead to heaven more than one year ago. Does that mean they aren’t normal? Absolutely not.

Granted, as time moves forward our hearts do begin to heal. Do we ever stop grieving our loved ones? No, I don’t think so.

However, what does change is the intensity of our grief. Typically, over time the intense feeling of loss lessens, though it may never totally disappear.

Although I initially disliked the fact that there is a labeling of grief, normal vs. complicated, I also recognize the real need for guidance from those in the medical community. Unfortunately, I know of too many who were unable to deal with the pain of their grief. Sadly, they decided there was no way out other than to take their own lives. Grief can be overwhelming and if you are having feelings of self-harm please, reach out for help.

There are many options to help us walk this difficult road of loss and allow us to learn healthy coping skills. Below are some signs and symptoms of complicated grief.  If you are experiencing any of these and are feeling overwhelmed, please reach out for help.

  • Intense sorrow, pain, and rumination over the loss of your loved one
  • Focusing on little else but your loved one’s death
  • Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
  • Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one

Complicated grief also may be indicated if you continue to:

  • Have trouble carrying out normal routines
  • Isolate from others and withdraw from social activities
  • Experience depression, deep sadness, guilt, or self-blame
  • Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death
  • Feel life isn’t worth living without your loved one
  • Wish you had died along with your loved one

At times, people with complicated grief may consider suicide. If you’re thinking about this, talk to someone you trust. If you think you may act on suicidal feelings, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

Please remember, you are never alone. We are here to support, listen and pray with you.

Published by pat

Mom. Wife. Honey. Jesus-Girl. Love to travel, cook, make beautiful things grow and spend time with family & friends.

2 thoughts on “Labeling Grief: Normal vs. Complicated

  1. I once read that the greater your love for someone, the greater the grief when they are gone. It makes sense.

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