The grief that accompanies a traumatic life event can often feel like a burden of desperation and hopelessness to those forced to carry it.
And, unfortunately, that’s almost everyone. 72% of people recently surveyed said they have gone through a heavy mourning process within the last few years.
But what happens when the pain simply doesn’t go away? Grief has a way of leaving you debilitated in a season of sorrow, and while most people can recover and eventually move on, that’s not always the case.
Prolonged Grief Disorder and Complicated Grief occur when the idea of getting back to a “normal life” after a tragedy seems so far-fetched, and oftentimes someone experiencing these symptoms must receive treatment.
In this article, we’ll clear up the fogginess surrounding these disorders and differentiate them from normal grief or depression. Hopefully, you will begin to understand why moving past the stages of grief is taking longer than usual for you.
To do so, let’s start at the beginning.
What Is Grief?
If you have experienced extreme loss or shock, you probably know the face of grief all too well.
In the unlikely (and fortunate) case that you have not, the Mayo Clinic defines grief as a “strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion.” Grief can manifest itself in a variety of ways depending on the event that caused it and the person experiencing it.
Grief can be experienced after several different life experiences, such as:
- Loss of a loved one
- Job loss
- Difficult breakup
- Terminal illness diagnosis
- An event that violates your safety or stability (think physical attack or sexual assault)
- Sudden change in mobility or freedom
- Near-death experience
It is important to highlight that there is no right or wrong instance that causes grief, and there is no simple definition. Everyone experiences grief differently, although many similar symptoms arise.
You may be familiar with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may not experience all of these stages, or they could rearrange themselves, but universally those who experience grief inevitably heal and move on.
But what happens if you can’t?
If you’ve ever had to ask yourself why you can’t stop mourning or how long is too long for grieving, chances are there is another factor at work.
What Is Prolonged Grief Disorder?
Simply put, Prolonged Grief Disorder occurs when someone suffering from grief never feels relief from the weight of the waves in which it comes. With the passing of months and years after a terrible loss, one’s mind still becomes just as preoccupied with the incident as it did immediately after.
Prolonged Grief can be diagnosed as early as six months after the event, and refers to suffering from the symptoms of grief well after the societal norms have said one should be healed (usually around one year and after passing the main anniversaries and reminders).
The main symptoms of Prolonged Grief include, but are not limited to:
- Avoiding social interactions, even with close friends
- Unrelenting, debilitating sadness
- A drastic change in sleeping habits
- Withdrawal from society and responsibilities
- Finding no joy or fulfillment in activities you once loved
- Failure to address simple personal hygiene
- Reckless, endangering behavior
- Declining mental health
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
You may recognize that many of these symptoms also accompany depression. It’s crucial to recognize the distinct differences between the two.
Prolonged Grief vs. Depression
Similarities are often found within the symptoms. Both depression and grief can make completing everyday activities nearly impossible.
You may have a hyper fixation on certain events (usually when depression is paired with some form of anxiety) that you can’t seem to forget or always think back to when your mind is left to wander.
For many years, doctors thought that grief was a naturally occurring feeling and left it untreated but this mindset is changing.
Emerging studies about Prolonged Grief and Complicated Grief (we’ll touch on this in a moment) show that they may result in suicidal thoughts or actions, much like depression. Treatment options exist for those who suffer from Prolonged Grief.
One main difference between the two disorders is how they are derived.
Depression is a clinical disorder that affects the chemical compounds inside your brain. It is not kickstarted by any one event and may progress over time if left untreated.
Prolonged Grief, on the other hand, begins in a split-second with one of the life-changing events that we outlined earlier. The most common cause is the sudden death of a close family member or loved one.
There are many different forms of depression, and a few can actually be symptoms of grief.
Complicated Grief and Other Terms
If you have been digging around on the internet for answers, you’ve likely come across the term Complicated Grief.
This is a great blanket term and is extremely similar to Prolonged Grief. You may hear these also referred to as Abnormal Grief, Chronic Grief, or Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder.
Like Prolonged Grief, these can result after many different traumatic experiences, with the sudden passing of a close loved one as the most common.
Healing Is on the Horizon
Prolonged Grief Disorder and Complicated Grief go by many terms, but their symptoms leave you being relentlessly pounded by the waves of grief.
If you’ve been suffering for a year or longer and want lasting relief from your grief, we’d love for you to give us a call and talk to one of our transparent agents about services available to you. Or, to make things easier, head to our website and live chat with a D’More Healthcare Admissions Specialist.
No matter how long you have felt alone, a life apart from your grief is possible. We are ready and waiting to be the outstretched hand ready to pull you out of the water.