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What Should You Do When Grief Won't Go Away?

Learning to navigate difficult emotions is one of the key benefits of the training you receive through resources like Joy Starts Here, Connexus and Thrive. The necessity of these skills was highlighted in a recent article by the New York Times “When Grief Won’t Relent“.

Sometimes, even when the loss is neither sudden nor unexpected, as is true in the majority of deaths in the United States, survivors close to the deceased can experience extremely disruptive grief reactions that persist far longer.

In a report last month in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. M. Katherine Shear presents a composite portrait of what is known as complicated grief, an extreme, unrelenting reaction to loss that persists for more than six months and can result in a serious risk to health. She describes a 68-year-old widow who continued to be seriously impaired by grief four years after her husband died. The woman slept on the couch because she could not bear to sleep in the bed she had shared with him. She found it too painful to engage in activities they used to do together. She no longer ate regular meals because preparing them was a too-distressing reminder of her loss. And she remained alternately angry with the medical staff who cared for him and with herself for not recognizing his illness earlier.

Symptoms of complicated grief commonly include intense yearning, longing or emotional pain; frequent preoccupying, intrusive thoughts and memories of the person lost; a feeling of disbelief or inability to accept the loss; and difficulty imagining a meaningful life without that person.

“People with complicated grief often feel shocked, stunned or emotionally numb, and they may become estranged from others because of the belief that happiness is inextricably tied to the person who died,” wrote Dr. Shear, of the Columbia University School of Social Work and College of Physicians and Surgeons. (Entire article.)

Get the training you need for all sorts of emotions at Thrive.

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