BOSTON, MA — Sometimes, after the loss of a loved one, symptoms of
grief linger and become increasingly debilitating. This condition,
called complicated grief, has features of both depression and
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And there is some evidence that
a distinct type of treatment may bring relief, reports the October
issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
most characteristic symptoms of complicated grief are intrusive
thoughts of the deceased person and a painful yearning for his or her
presence. When grief is most severe, a person may deny the death or
The risk of developing
complicated grief depends on both the immediate circumstances of the
death and the background against which it occurs. Complicated grief is
more likely to occur if the death was sudden, violent, or unexpected.
But just as experiences not typically regarded as traumatic can still
lead to PTSD symptoms, so can even normal bereavement produce
grief occurs depends on how the person copes, not just with trauma, but
with loss," says Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
"If a person could not respond to earlier losses without losing
emotional equilibrium, complicated grief becomes a greater danger for
him or her."
Treatment of complicated
grief often relies on the idea that grieving is an experience to be
worked through. A promising treatment called traumatic grief therapy
uses cognitive behavioral methods for symptoms and stress relief, along
with interpersonal techniques to encourage re-engagement with the world.