Prolonged Grieving: When to Get Help
November 05, 2012
Grieving is an individual experience, dependent on you and the nature of your loss. There isn't a "normal" or "expected" period of time for grieving. Some people adjust to their altered life within several weeks or months, while others take a year or more.
Common Symptoms of Grief and Grieving
An array of feelings and symptoms during grieving is common. While you feel shock, sadness, numbness, anger, guilt, anxiety, or fear, you may also find moments of happiness, relief, or peace. A weakened immune system and sleeplessness are common. Grieving can worsen an already present chronic illness.
Treatment for Grieving
To adapt to loss, a person must complete four tasks:
- accept the reality of the loss
- work through the pain of the loss
- adjust to life following the loss
- move on with life
Taking care of yourself, connecting with your social support system, and the passage of time are essential to achieve these four tasks. If you find that your grief does not allow you to function normally for more than a week or two, contact a grief counselor or bereavement support group.
Prolonged grief, also known as pathological grieving or unresolved grief occurs when accompanied by thoughts of suicide or psychotic symptoms, such as a loss of contact with reality, or a significant weight loss or gain (more than 10 lbs). Continually "hearing" the dead person's voice, extreme belief of dying of the same cause as the loved one, and insistence that the loved one is still alive are pathologic, and require intervention. An abnormally grieving parent may neglect the needs of his or her children.
When to Call a Doctor for Grief
Call a doctor if you:
- feel hopeless and detached for more than a couple of weeks
- cannot stop yourself from thinking about death or suicide.
- have a sudden and unhealthy change in your behavior, such as drinking more alcohol than normal.
- are grieving longer than you think is good for you.
Call 911 or other emergency services if you:
- think you cannot stop yourself from harming or killing yourself.
- hear voices that tell you to hurt yourself or other people.
If you are worried about someone else's grief, intervene if:
- Someone you know has symptoms of depression.
- Someone who is grieving tries to harm himself or herself, or someone else.
- Someone who is grieving threatens to hurt someone else, or makes threats of suicide.
Who to See for Grief
It is best to receive grief counseling from an experienced mental health professional such as a clinical social worker, psychologist, or licensed professional counselor. If you require medicine to help with a medical or mental health problem related to a loss, seek help from psychiatrists, general practitioners, internists, or nurse practitioners.
Although seeking professional help is intimidating, counseling or therapy is a good start to healing. A therapist helps you develop coping skills, offers new ideas to deal with the pain of loss, and moves the grieving process forward. With support and even comfort from these individuals, you do not have to suffer alone.
by: Rachel Schnebly