People often wonder if the way they respond to grief is “normal” and expected in relation to what other people do and say when they lose someone to death. Unfortunately, the answer is not always so simple. Some factors include the culture of the person, how they were doing psychologically before the loss, what they expect of themselves post-loss, and how they view the loss. For some folks, if their deceased love one was suffering greatly before they died so death may provide some relief, whereas someone who lost their loved one suddenly and unexpectedly may feel a sense of anxiety and bewilderment.
As mentioned in previous posts, there is a difference between what is psychiatrically considered normal, uncomplicated mourning and complex grief. A sense of bewilderment, some brain fog, sad feelings interspersed with other transient emotions, loss of appetite, and temporary anhedonia (not feeling pleasure in activities and things that used to bring enjoyment) are all symptoms of normal grief. Interestingly, other cultures seem to give people longer to grief before they consider a person’s grief pathological or problematic (e.g., Egypt). Our culture seems to think that most of the symptoms of grief should be over after about a year, which depending on the nature of the bond between the survivor and the deceased, could be an awfully short amount of time to sort out one’s feelings about the loss. To give you a sense of what is considered “complicated”, I refer to Pomeroy and Garcia’s book The Grief Assessment and Intervention Workbook for ease:
- Are you especially sensitive to other loss and separation experiences?
- Do you try especially hard to suppress anxiety with relation to loss and separation?
- Are you anxious about death and loss of other loved ones, or yourself?
- Do you have an especially strong, unrealistic idealization about the lost loved one or your relationship with them?
- Do you have rigid obsessions and compulsions about the dead person and the loss thereof?
- Do you avoid socializing with others because you’re afraid of losing new people too?
- Do you have a hard time expressing emotions about the loss, and does that difficulty last a long time?
- Do you self-sabotage other relationships after the loss?
- Do you abuse substances (drugs and alcohol) after the loss?
- Do you have PTSD-like symptoms like numbness, alienation, depersonalization, and emotional overwhelm?
- Do you have depressive symptoms like anger, irritability and hopelessness that last a while?
If these symptoms are present, you might want to get some help to cope with the loss with professional support. I would be happy to help you, can be reached at 661-233-6771. You can also look for a bereavement support group in your community. Many hospices have them and they are low or no-cost. Whatever you do, try not to judge yourself for what you’re experiencing. You are doing your best in a very hard situation.