Complicated grief is when the feelings of loss are debilitating and do not improve after a long amount of time passes. There is no set amount of time that one moves through the stages of grief; however, there is general movement toward growth and healing in a normal grief experience. A generally accepted amount of time is one year. In complicated grief, the painful emotions are so consuming that the individual has trouble recovering from the loss to resume their life. In the beginning months after a loss, normal grief and complicated grief appear very similar; however, complicated grief will likely worsen instead of gradually fade.
Signs of complicated grief can include: intense sorrow, pain and rumination over the loss, inability to focus on anything other than the loss itself, intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased, difficulty accepting the death, prolonged numbness or detachment, bitterness about loss, feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose, lack of trust in others, inability to enjoy life or even remember any positive experiences of a loved one, or having trouble carrying out normal routines.
Individuals experiencing complicated grief generally need support and resources to help them reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.