Everyone grieves at their own pace and in their own, very personal manner. So who’s to say that someone might have unresolved or complicated grief? Is there really anything ‘normal’ when it comes to grieving the loss of someone you love? How is grief not complicated and how is it ever possible to resolve? Who on earth made these ridiculous rules? I want to know! Your loved one is gone, there is no fixing that. This can be quite frustrating and I’ve personally heard people say that I’ve had both of these during my journey so far.
I’ll start with the medical definitions for these terms and some common indicators as found in a couple of articles I’ve read:
Unresolved grief: Grief characterized by the extended duration of the symptoms, by interference of the grief symptoms with the normal functioning of the mourner, and/or by the intensity of the symptoms. See: Complicated grief.
Complicated grief: Grief that is complicated by adjustment disorders (especially depressed and anxious mood or disturbed emotions and behavior), major depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Complicated grief is identified by the extended length of time of the symptoms, the interference in normal function caused by the symptoms, or by the intensity of the symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of complicated grief may include:
- Intense sorrow, pain and rumination over the loss of your loved one
- Focus 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
For me personally, I could possibly fit loosely into either of these types of grief. While I don’t have every symptom of either, I do have a few to several of each. I do not currently experience any of the obvious dangerous symptoms above though. (If you are suffering with any dangerous thoughts or actions, please, please, please get immediate medical help.)
Just by reading into the little bit of literature I shared above, I would say that I likely fit into a more complicated type grief than unresolved.
My personal interpretation of unresolved grief is not facing your loss in a manner that allows you to go through “the stages” of mourning. I definitely face my grief every day. Head on. One thing I’ve learned recently is that I have a strong understanding of the feelings I’m going through and by simply understanding, I am not avoiding my grief. My grief is valid.
I would instead say that complicated grief is more where I stay.
I have fairly severe anxiety which keeps me from going anywhere but a tight handful of places. I have extreme insomnia. I’ve withdrawn. I have also suffered greatly from trauma surrounding my loss even though I seem to have a better grasp on that at this time. It WAS traumatizing, what else can I say, and it still hits me pretty darn hard occasionally. I also deal with the depression that comes from such a tremendous loss and honestly, it does sometimes interfere with my everyday functionality. Prior to just recently, I did not fully express my feelings of grief to anyone much or at all, I kept everything to myself. I can seriously go on and on about how grief has impacted my life; it does seem to be endless.
My grief is endless and it’s for sure changed who I am, but my love is also endless and it too changed who I am. Grief at any level or intensity IS NOT A DISORDER. This is where I completely disagree with any licensed medical professional or self-proclaimed grief know-it-all. Grief is purely the consequence of love and the duration of one’s grief is nobody else’s call to make. There is no road map or handbook that can help lessen someone’s pain, if it’s not time.
I think way too many expectations and time limitations are placed on those who are grieving. It’s downright unfair in my opinion too. How can anyone else say what is right or wrong in something so personal. I think that not only do other people make us feel bad for grieving outside of the accepted criteria, but we too, place these same pressures on ourselves as well.
Personally, I will never get to the other side of my grief while I am still here on this earth. I understand this and I refuse to put unfair pressure on myself to “move on” when it’s just not possible.
I will find my way and learn a new way of life, but it will be in my own time. Understand that this cannot be forced. It will happen though, and I will begin to reenter & navigate through this thing we call life again, someday.
Until then I must be patient with not only myself, but also patient with others that do not comprehend the sheer magnitude of pain I feel from my daughter’s absence.
I promise, I am not crazy. I do not have a disorder or chemical imbalance. I’m just a loving mother trying to figure out how to live a new life without her precious daughter.
And if it takes my remaining lifetime to do just that then that’s okay too.