Psychologist Explains Complicated Grief

When we lose a person so dear to us, we grieve. That is the natural reaction we experience. With all the buildup sorrow and extreme sadness, grieving becomes our way of healing our body and mind. The whole process of it sometimes takes over a couple of days, weeks, moths, and even years. However, grief is not that consistent. There are times that it presents a whole lot of different thoughts, and emotions, as well as physical symptoms. That is why we need to understand that grief, while it seems to feel so awful, it can still become an adaptive process of emotional and mental healing. However, when it comes to the complicated state, everything is different. Let’s check out what a psychologist has to say about the complicated one.


What Is A Complicated Grief

Complicated grief, though it may appear the same as ordinary grief, is entirely a disruption. It keeps us away from the normal process of accepting a loved one’s loss. While grief involves positive memories and feelings, the complicated one makes it impossible for us to access the remaining memory from the sad experience. With that, the complicated grief hinders us from being able to create a positive and balanced feeling.

Since grief is a normal response when losing someone of value, it requires emotional and mental strength. Ashley Curiel, PsyD once said, “Understand that grief comes in waves. It is natural to feel numb at times and “normal” at others. You might continue to grieve for months or years. It is okay.” But when there is a complicated version of the grief we currently undergo, everything becomes negative. That is the reason why we often view the loss as something unfortunate at all cost. That whatever it serves deliberately, we assume that it will never benefit us entirely. We see no good about it, and that is what makes it harder for us to understand the process of healing. In a complicated manner of grief, there is this unexplained sense inside of us that brings nothing but overall negativity.


How It Affects Us

One of the unfortunate things about grief is its potential to get stuck along the process of emotional and mental recovery. Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC used to say, “No one is born knowing how to cope with the wave of grief that follows the death of someone we love. As a psychotherapist who’s worked with many grievers, I know when faced with overwhelming grief, many people feel like they are alone in what they’re experiencing and can feel like they’re going crazy.” It creates unavailability to achieve the kind of healing we deserve. That somehow explains why some of us talk about loss as if it is some physical wound. The whole idea of it is comparable to the process of cleaning and taking care of the injured part of the body. It can be hard at times, and when triggered, it gets more painful. But once we are used to the kind of pain, little by little, it becomes tolerable. And in the end, it pretty much goes away. So t, hat means both the experience of the physical and emotional pain appears entirely associated because of the characteristic of the healing process that these two share.

However, complicated grief when compared to a wound is the stage where the injury gets infected. That instead of recovering, the infection slows the progress of healing. And during this stage, there is still pain and confusion that linger. That is because the uncomfortable sensation is not from the wound itself, but instead coming from the infection. So comparing the injury to complicated grief, the emotions, thoughts, and behavioral responses are uncomfortable because something is triggering it. Let’s say there is often a negative reminder of the particular loss, which makes it hard to forget and ignore.

Another reason why grief tends to become complicated is when we focus the whole process into ourselves. That instead of thinking about how essential it is to bring things back to the way it used to, we become the reason why it couldn’t. Instead of accepting things and trying our best to become happy, we look at ourselves as a cause of the unfortunate situation. With that, we involve statements like “This is my entire fault” “I am weak, and I deserve this” “I’m not worthy of being part of his or her life” and so on. The questions’ focus is only at us. Those are the unhealthy thoughts that often make the grieving process more complicated.



The process of accepting the loss of a loved one is different from one person to another. But that does not mean that all of us can’t handle things better. Yes, the way we manage to look at the unfortunate event will be different as well. But it does not necessarily mean we have to stick with the complicated process. Grieving helps us in understanding our emotional and mental capabilities. Therefore, we should not allow it to reach a point where it will cause us an overall deterioration. “Acknowledge and accept the feelings: The first step is to learn to bring the feeling out,” says Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD.

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