COMPLICATED GRIEF 1
Complicated grief is an acute disorder that triggers long periods ofsufferings following the loss of a loved one. Complicated griefdisorder is a proposed disorder for people who are significantly andfunctionally hampered by prolonged grief symptoms(Coon & Mitterer, 2016). According to Sheer (2015),approximately 2-3% of the global population is suffering fromcomplicated grief. A person is diagnosed with the disorder if he orshe is unable to resume normal responsibilities and activities sixmonths after the death of his/her loved one. This paper will explorethe complicated grief disorder, its current treatment, and propose anew approach to dealing with the condition.
The symptoms of complicated grief include maladaptive behaviors andthoughts related to the deceased or death. In terms of maladaptivethoughts, the patients constantly ruminate about the circumstancethat resulted in the death of their loved ones(Sheer, 2015). Besides, the patients experiencefrequent disbelief that death occurred. On the other hand,maladaptive feelings include intense emotional reactions that remindthe patient about the deceased. A patient may also go throughrecurrent feelings of bitterness or anger regarding death.Individuals suffering from complicated grief may also face difficultycaring about other persons after the loss of their loved ones. Also,such persons tend to experience emotional dysregulation regardingdeath, suicidal ideation, and social isolation(Sheer, 2015). Social isolation involves excessivepreoccupation or avoidance of things, people, and places related tothe deceased.
When a person is going through normal grief, he/she moves back andforth from shock to depression, but eventually such an individual isable to resolve his/her feelings and emotions toward the loss ofhis/her loved one. In contrast, people going through complicatedgrief interminably bounce back and forth through the various stagesof grief without resolving their emotions towards the deceased ordeath. Grief activates limbus which is the part of the brainresponsible for memories and emotions in both normal and complicatedgrievers. However, in complicated grievers, nucleus accumbens whichis the part of the brain that is responsible for addictions, rewards,and pleasure is activated as well(Sheer, 2015). The activation of nucleus accumbenstriggers an insatiable yearning for the deceased. Also, complicatedgrief stimulates the amygdala which is responsible for avoidancebehaviors. Research shows that intense longing by the complicatedgrievers gives them pleasure and rewards as it does pain(Sheer, 2015). Consequently, the pleasure that thecomplicated grievers get by keeping the deceased alive reinforces thehabits preventing them from coming to terms with the death.
The complicated grief therapy is the commonly used method fortreating people going through complicated grief. This approachinvolves a patient constantly telling the story about the death ofhis/her loved one. The complicated grief therapy takes the form of16-weekly sessions that utilize techniques derived from positivepsychology, motivational interviewing, interpersonal therapy, andcognitive-behavioral therapy(Sheer, 2015). The therapy builds the grieving person’snatural capacity to adapt to the death of his/her loved one. Thetherapist aids the patient revisit the situation surrounding thedeath of his/her loved one. After this, the therapist helps thepatients think about his/her future in a more hopeful way. Thetherapy also aids the patient reconnect with his/her personalstrength, rediscover his/her interest and values, and rebuildmeaningful relationships with others. The other type of therapy usedfor people suffering from complicated grief is the internet-basedtherapy. This method applies a three-phase model comprising ofconfrontation, social sharing, and cognitive restructuring(Rosner, Pfoh, & Kotoučová, 2011).
In addition to the complicated grief therapy and the internet-basedtherapy, the integrative cognitive behavior treatment is the othermethod used to treat people going through complicated grief. Thisfirst phase of this treatment is the therapeutic alliance,stabilization, exploration, and motivation. This phase aims atsafeguarding the safety of the patients (Rosner,et al., 2011). For example, the patient is required toprovide a list of numbers of relatives and friends to call in theevent that he/she face a difficult time. Apart from considering thepatient safety, this phase aims at helping the client master how todeal with a stressful day such as through sports activities.According to Coon& Mitterer (2016), the mind is connected to thebody and thus, exercises combat stress and fatigue which in turnhelps the patient sleep well and avoid obsessive behaviors. The otherstage of the integrative cognitive therapy is the exposure andcognitive restructuring. During exposure, the patient is forced toface the most internal pictures surrounding the death of his/herloved one. This helps the patients realize that most of theiremotional reaction to the death of their loved ones is the product oftheir faulty way of thinking. This stage also helps the patients dealwith issues such as guilt, regret, shame, and blame. The last part ofthe integrative cognitive behavioral treatment is the integration andtransformation. This phase helps the patient restore his/her hopes,intentions, and plans for the future(Rosner, et al., 2011). Apart from therapy, peoplesuffering from complicated grief are also given antidepressants.Complicated grievers experience depression symptoms which worsentheir condition(Sheer, 2015). As such, antidepressant helps restorethe brain imbalances triggered by the grief.
I think that people going through complicated grief should go throughmeaning therapy. According to Wong (2011), meaning therapy, alsoknown as meaning-centered counseling, is an integrative positiveexistential approach to therapy that assimilates personal constructsto the various fields of psychotherapy to make life worth living forpatient in spite of suffering. The approach maintains that the onlyway behaviors can change is by inferring meaning to conditions andevents. The healing process following the loss of a loved onerequires that the grieving person make sense of the death. This ispossible if a grieving individual understands the existing beliefsabout death. Apart from utilizing the meaning theory, I suggest thatthe patient’s cultures be considered when dealing with peoplesuffering from complicated grief. According to Coon& Mitterer (2016), cultural relativity requires that behaviors bejudged relative to the values of the culture in which it occurs.Death has a cultural connotation hence two patients are likely toattach different meanings to the process of losing a loved one. Forexample, if a person is a Christian, he/she may view the death of aloved one as the unquestionable will of God. Besides, the persongoing through complicated grief may accommodate the loss of this/herloved one through meanings that expand, recognize and deepen his/herunderstanding of life in general. For example, a patient may start toevaluate his/her dependence on the deceased. Consequently, he/she maycome to a resolution that he/she will stand on his two feet.
I have proposed that people suffering from complicated grief beoffered meaning therapy. Meaning therapy is one of the mostunderutilized therapy techniques, yet the method can be veryimportant for individuals who have lost hope for the future. Alreadythere are several methods in use that aims at changing the patients`behavior and thoughts regarding the demise of their loved ones.However, research shows that patients suffering from complicatedgrief derive pleasure from remembering about the deceased. As such,there is a need for the grief process to be carefully worked through.On this note, I can help patients suffering from complicated griefattach new meanings to the death of their loved ones. For example, Ican help a patient to associate the death to the end of thesufferings that the deceased went through before his/her demise.Besides, depending on the patient’s religion affiliation, I canhelp him/her view death as the will of a higher power. As such, whenapplying the meaning theory, I will seek to understand how thepatient’s culture views death. After this, I will help the patientinternalize and identify with these views of death.
Coon, D., &Mitterer, J. O. (2016). Introductionto psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior with concept maps andreviews (14thEd.).Cengage Learning.
Rosner, R.,Pfoh, G., & Kotoučová, M. (2011). Treatment of complicatedgrief. EuropeanJournal of Psychotraumatology, 2.
Sheer, K. M.(2015). Complicated grief. The New England Journal of Medicine,372(2) 153-160.
Wong, P.T. (2011). Meaning Therapy: An Integrative and PositiveExistential psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy,40(2).