Tuesday, February 17, 2015

extremely disruptive grief reactions

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.

“Complicated grief is like a wound that doesn’t heal and can follow the loss of any close relationship,” she said. The risk of complicated grief is greatest — 10 percent to 20 percent — among those who lose a romantic partner and even higher among those who lose a child. It is more common following a sudden or violent death and most common among women older than 60, she reported.

source: When Grief Won’t Relent

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