Normal Grief vs Not-So-Normal Grief


Though I have done no official research, I feel fairly sure most people who experience a significant loss go through moments of believing they have totally lost their minds.  After spending most of your life feeling relatively “normal”, it can be slightly terrifying to one day spiral into the unknown territory of grief.

We have spent plenty of time assuring the thousands of people out there who are feeling crazy after a loss that it is usually normal-grief-crazy, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  We have a whole post on how grief makes you feel crazy!

But every now and again, the normal-grief-crazy becomes more than that. It takes on a life of its own and it becomes something that requires more support than can be found from friends and family, books, church, websites, journals, or time.

Grief that becomes debilitating and all-consuming may be considered complicated grief. Of course, all grief is complicated, but this is the label that has been given to grief associated with the responses described in the section below.

What is Complicated Grief?

Hypothetical Case Study: You feel like total crap.  Life feels impossibly overwhelming.  You are irrationally angry.  You are crying every day.  You can’t imagine it will get better.

Is this normal grief or complicated grief?  Sometimes it feels like a coin toss, even to us professionals.  Because the reality is that in the early days after a loss, it is normal to have the symptoms described above. So the question becomes, how can you figure out if you (or your friend or family member) may be in need of professional grief support?

My first thought about this: we could all use a little bit of therapy!  There really isn’t a threshold one has to hit in order for therapy to be beneficial. So if you are thinking about grief counseling, why not give it a go?  It is an opportunity to spend time on yourself, learn some things about yourself, and get out of the house.  What do you have to lose?

That said, if it has been more than a few months and your symptoms seem the same or more severe than immediately following the loss, this could be a reason to consider professional help.  At the Columbia University School of Social Work, they are conducting extensive research around complicated grief.  It may be helpful to consider the signs of complicated grief outlined by Columbia University researchers:

  • Strong feelings of yearning or longing for the person who died
  • Feeling intensely lonely, even when other people are around
  • Strong feelings of anger or bitterness related to the death
  • Feeling like life is empty or meaningless without the person who died
  • Thinking so much about the person who died that it interferes with doing things or with relationships with other people
  • Strong feelings of disbelief about the death or finding it very difficult to accept the death
  • Feeling shocked, stunned, dazed or emotionally numb
  • Finding it hard to care about or to trust other people
  • A feeling of constant fear and anxiety.
  • Feeling very emotionally or physically activated when confronted with reminders of the loss
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that are reminders of the loss
  • Strong urges to see, touch, hear or smell things to feel close to the person who died

They suggest that three or more of these symptoms persisting beyond 6 months may be an indicator of complicated grief and a reason to consider professional support.  There are certain factors that could put you at greater risk of having complicated grief.  Having experienced one of these risk factors by no means is an indicator that you will experience complicated grief.  It just means you are a little more likely. 

Some of these factors include things like experiencing an unexpected or violent loss, a loved one dying by suicide, a lack of support system, or past traumatic losses. To learn more about Columbia University’s research, visit

What Now?

If you have just read over this and thought, “oh crap, this sounds like me (or a friend or family member)” you may be asking what to do next.  Please see our guide to seeking grief support here.  It is a lot easier than you may think to get help.  Really.

If you want to read a little more on this subject, check out the following articles:

For some, grief can lead to thoughts of suicide.  If you are thinking of hurting yourself please seek immediate treatment.  You can call 911, go to your local emergency room, or call a local crisis response team.  In the US you can seek 24/7 support through National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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September 19, 2019

54 responses on "Normal Grief vs Not-So-Normal Grief"

  1. I am 16 years old and it was almost 1 year and a half ago, on May 10th 2018 that I lost my best friend to suicide. She was a very kind good with a personality like no other. She was always smiling and tried to be friends with everyone. I love her so much and miss her so so much till this day and will forever.

  2. October 15 is coming again. That is the date my precious son Josiah burned to death the day before his 23rd birthday. He was an amazing young man. I have come a long way in the grief process. Before losing Josiah, I rarely cried, but now, the memory of his death. how he died, and just missing him can bring on tears. I am resilient, and am in school to become a counselor to help others who are facing something no one ever should. My son’s best friend also died suddenly, as did another of our friend’s son. Now a friend who lost her son to suicide last year has lost her other son suddenly (diabetes). I am at a loss, How can I comfort this amazing lady, when she is experiencing the unimaginable?

  3. I am 21 and I lost my mom on June 26th 2019 21 days short of 5 months now. She was 45 years old with 3 trouble making kids and a beautiful little 3 year old she just adopted…. she had stage 4 lung cancer pneumonia and had a collapsed lung, that’s not the cause of death though. They found a blood clot in her lungs and began to use heparin, after spending night after night with her in the hospital listening to her scream and cry from pain we found out she is actually allergic to heparin which made the blood clot all over. Everyday she seemed more loopy everyday the talking got stranger and stranger. Thinking it was the medication she was having miniature strokes. My mom could no longer talk move or eat or drink. My mom went from so strong so independent to getting fed by a sponge, getting cleaned up after every time she had to go to the bathroom in her own bed. Seeing my mother like this was so hard. We brought her home to be as comfortable as possible. Her arms were the size of elephant trunks by this time. Seeing her like this i can’t stop seeing it in my mind. hearing the screams and rubbing her until I physically couldn’t rub her anymore. Having my 3 year old sister ask why mommy can’t talk to her? Why won’t mommy’s legs work? Can mommy hear me? These questions were the worst and now they now follow up with can I have gods phone number to call mommy? This has been so hard and I need my mom now more than ever. I miss you every day mom I miss your smell your touch your love your voice. I miss you so much. This pain i feel in my body and mind I can’t describe. I just need you mom.

  4. Thank you for these parameters on “complicated grief”. My dad lost his mom about six years ago (she was 99 but passed rather suddenly and traumatically) and is still, nearly constantly, grieving his loss. He gets in fights almost daily with my mom, as she tries to move a piece of furniture or other memento that belonged to his mother (they’re attempting to become snowbirds), and he goes apoplectic at the idea of “letting go” of any more of his mother. I’ve been struggling to help him through this, this gives me a better framework to work from. Thank you.

  5. I lost my son 15 years ago unexpectedly he was 19 two months before his 20th birthday. And Oct 7 he would have been 35 years old I was 38 years old when he died I’m still not doing go I have been in the mental hospital about 50 times on so many meds depressed all the time sad I cry a lot I have been running and running from state for 15 years I don’t. Know what do any more there was 2 years ago I walk from Pensacola Florida to Panama City then I work from Gulfport Mississippi to Alabama I didn’t know were. I was going but I was going I talked to a psychiatrist about and he said I develop manic with my PTSD depression reoccurring depression anxiety suicidal ideations I just feel broken and I could never be fixed people think I want to be like this

  6. My husband died of a massive heart attach six months ago today., he was 47. We were together for 24 years and married for 21 years. We have five children between us and we ran a restaurant together forthe past 2.5 years. The pain, loneliness, emptiness and pure grieve and bewilderment is unbearable at times and I just scream, shout and just cry for hours on end. I loved him unconditionally, he was my soul mate, best friend and we spent most of our time together. I have a very supportive family and wonderful network of friends, but I just feel so empty, sad and lonely. I put a smile on everyday, run my restaurant and pretend everything is ok until I get in my car to go home and the pain, emptiness and feelings of pointlessness is horrendously sad.

  7. I lost my mom 13 months ago unexpected at 74. She had COPD and had just bought a portable oxygen machine she had not even used. We didn’t live close and we did not see each other much as she was always distant from me. She was very private and had a rough childhood that she would never share. The last year of her life my husband told me I need to visit and call as you never know what can happen. I felt hurt that she was never there for me, she was distant and not a loving mother. At times when I was little I would walk home in the pouring rain, even though she had a car and was home she would not pick me up. I was always respectful but we had no connection. Then the last year before her death I did go visit several times. She lived in a small run down home, we redid her floor, changed out ceiling fans, dusted and cleaned for her. Took her to dinner, laughed and had a margarita together. She sill never opened up about her past or her health. I never knew she was getting worse until I got the call she was in the hospital. My mom never hugged me, told me she loved me, held me. So in the hospital room my family had an argument about her care and left her there, alone with me….She was in an oxygen mask fighting for air. Scared to death. I walked over and grabbed her hand and she held it tight, she told me she was hot. I asked her if I could get her a wet cold cloth for her head and she nodded. I got it and placed it on her head. She grabbed my hand again while I held the cloth on her head, then she whispered in my ear, “what’s happening to me, am I dying?” It ripped my heart out to see her in pain and so afraid. I told her I’m not sure mom what’s happening but we will find out. She then tapped her pj bottoms, she had soiled them because she was afraid to get up because she couldn’t breath. She wanted me to stay with her while the nurses changed her and the sheets, but I could not hold her hand while they did it, they had to move fast because of her breathing. So I stood to the side to give her privacy and kept talking to her telling her they would be finished soon and to hang on. It was four nurses working as fast as they could then it happened, one of them said she’s not breathing….she had a heart attack while they were changing her. My mom was gone…and I was never going to get to tell her I love you mom again. They tried to bring her back but it was too late. She suffered so terribly and her fear was so intense I could feel it. There is not a day that goes by I don’t cry. I feel guilty for stepping away….she was probably trying to breath and I wasn’t there to tell them. Now everyday I think not only of her, but how she died and I am angry. If this is life and it ends this way why even live it? I can’t go to counseling because my insurance doesn’t cover it. My marriage of 37 years is also suffering. I push everyone away because no one understands. They left me there with her alone and now she’s gone. I can’t enjoy life anymore and it just seems pointless.

    • I would 1st like to share why am on this site
      We lost my mom when I was 7 years young my brother was 5 my sister was 9 my father really worked hard to keep us together since he didn’t have any other family so he relied on our church and school but everyone always would recommend he get help from possibly orphanage during the week and him take care of us on weekends so neeadles
      To say he had lots of challenges so when I was 29 my dad took I’ll and we lost my dad so now at age 65 we just had a baby shower for my daughter in law and my son 1st baby my 4 th grand baby and in the middle of this beautiful fairytale baby shower as I was speaking to one of my children’s long childhood friends and my daughter in laws mother I started to cry ! So now my one daughter says mom why we’re you crying ? Why do you cry in certain sysuations ? She’s thinking because I am in nead of some time of help ! But the reason I feal I would like to respond to
      You sandy is because I feal that at the moment we have to except that our loved one is leaving us as we have known them to be with us we do not have any kind of control on that but we can control what we do next and for me it has always been about figuring out where am neaded the most and place my energy and thoughts in that direction and view it as a challenge of what I nead to do rather than how problematic and painful I feal because I feal that would be overwhelming and I feal since we are still slowed to Phisical you be here and the one that is leaving us does not have that choice anymore than we nead to be the ones to do our very best to carry on and figure out each day and each moment to get to where we nead to be if you believe in god that defiantly have to have faith that this is part of his bigger than us plan and if you don’t agree with the philosophy of god than you always nead to trust your universe of energy will guide us to what we nead to be doing with our actions and place our energy in that direction in some way I think I have learned how to compartmentalize my fealings and yes every now and then
      Like at this party with friends from high school that are now dealing with illness , close friends grandparents that are ill , my husbands mother in last time of her life , and my daughter in law grandmother with just days to live I definitely start crying for a few minutes and off and on few more times thinking of where we’ve been and there’s some sadness attached to all this joy that we really wish I guess for only joy but as we live the mortal life I defiantly realize that all our fealings take difrent forms and time goes on but for some things we experience it still feals like today god bless us all

    • This broke my heart!I totally understand!!You have to believe she is in a better place and that she loves you.If she had a bad childhood,she prob did not know how to love or be loved.But,you have to live on,you do not want your family to feel like that.

  8. I lost my dear mother September 1, 2019. She was not only my mom, but my best friend. I was her caregiver for many years. I just can’t believe she is gone. I can’t help but to think there was more that I should have done. She had COPD, Congestive Heart Failure and Dementia. She was hospitalized with double pneumonia. They also felt she had lung cancer because her white blood cell count would decrease. My mom was and always will be such a sweet angel. However we would argue. I always tried to push her to keep going and not give up. She would get mad at me. She again, now is gone. I can’t stop crying. I can’t believe I won’t see her sweet smile or voice ever again. I can’t help but to feel guilty. I was with her when she passed and I so want her back! I think I seriously need help!

  9. I found this page looking to see if I was normal for episodes of crying after losing my wife age 49 after a simple surgery. Losing her brother six hours earlier complicated my loss and not to mention being in the hospital in El Paso Texas when the shooting victims of this terrible event came and took up beds next to us in the ICU. Did I mention I lost my co-manager friend one week before to suicide and I had to act as pall bearer for her and then my wife within two weeks. The. One day after her burial I lost a friend at 47 to heart attack who leaves a wife and five kids. Did I mention I lost my little girl after 2 months and four days 15 years ago? My grief is complicated but we are normal.

  10. I just lost my 45 year old son on July 21, 2019. Serious bacterial infection set in after a surgery he had on July 3rd. He was treated for the infection which started to improve greatly. They sent him home on the 18th of July and then on Sunday the 21st he had a coronary. I am absolutely shattered. I feel numb, sometimes I feel zombie like. Now here it is a month later and I sometimes cry all day and cannot stop. I see him everywhere. Constant reminders of him. I obsess from the time he was an infant and growing up until he reached adulthood. My heart is broken. There are some days I can go out and be amongst people and I feel somewhat normal but it is when I have a lot of downtime is when the constant flow of tears come.

  11. The article differentiates the different levels of intensity. However, I truly feel, having lost parents, siblings, friends, nephew, cousin, many untimely, that I was able to process through grief, in what I consider a normal fashion. What we need to understand, is there is nothing NORMAL about the loss of a child. No one, I have encountered, is anywhere near what is considered normal grief. How could someone make the assumption that after 6 months we might have moved from normal grief to complicated grief? From day 1, I have been in devastating grief. Nothing about losing a child should ever be called NORMAL.

  12. I lost my son violently 12 years ago. I stood outside a crime scene. 7 hours later he was still where he died
    The pd told the media he was drink and on drugs he was neither. It took 8 years for the pd to admit they don’t know how he was shot. The bullet entered towards the back of his head be home how ear. They listed it as pending, then homicide, then accidental, and then suicide. It is now undetermined. I have suffered depression most of my life and it has gotten worse add in the anxiety and PTSD. I have learned that I will always grieve his death. I co facilitate our chapter of Compassionate Friends that’s all I can do. He is the first and last thing I think about him all the timeHe enters my mind all day long. I have learned to step and breathe and to allow joy and sorrow to share my life at the same time. Life for me will always be bitter sweet.

  13. I lost my mother 3 months ago I find my stuff still crying over her every day and even though I hadn’t seen her in 7 years we were closed for many of the years before that what’s your part and now I find myself wanting her more and more everyday I feel so lost without my mom

  14. We lost our daughter unexpectedly 10 months ago. She was 27 years old. She had many struggles and at times could be very mean to her father and I. I stood by her through her struggles and tried to help. When she passed very unexpectedly, I was there and I watched her go and felt numb. I begged her to stay. I do have waves of grief that come over me but there are times that I feel she is just busy living her life. I feel guilty for not grieving the way I should. I loved her and would do anything for her so why am I not racked with sadness like most people dealing with the lost of a child? Am I that heartless?

  15. Reading all these heartbreaking stories and thinking I have my own complicated grief about my grandparents who pretty much raised me and I miss nearly every day – it makes me wonder what it’d be like to go back to a time where death was far more a part of life e.g the Victorian age? Where people wore black and there was a definite time of mourning, where children played ‘funerals’ and it wasn’t all so sanitised. It forced people to accept it, to make room for it as a part of life and experience it together as families and communities. I never felt I had any support when my grandmother died. I was 22 and I felt as though my heart had been smashed. She was 74 and my best friend and like a mother to me. None of my friends had lost anyone close to them yet so after the funeral everything went back to normal. I cried every day for over a year, had nightmares and couldn’t go to her house. 15 years later and I now own her house and I can’t change anything, it’s exactly as she left it. I often just stare into space re-living stuff that happened there. I think of my life as before she died and after and used to feel like what’s the point unless she’s here? I think part of the problem is feeling like I don’t want to move on as that’ll be like losing her all over again. It is far better than it was – at least now I can go quite some time without thinking about her or getting a lump in my throat. I wish I’d had some support after it happened. I had a bf who just didn’t get emotions (he asked me to go and sleep in the spare room when I did the ‘middle of the night primal howl’ – the one where it hits you they’re gone forever) and a mother who was so busy grieving her mother, shut me out. I understand it – she needed mothering herself and wanted me to do it. But I couldn’t, I was only 22 and I was breaking my heart wanting a mother figure too. She wasn’t very comforting when my grandfather died either. When I said ‘I still can’t believe it’ she replied ‘Well I can’ in an angry way. When I also said how bad I felt a few days after he’d died, she replied with ‘Well I feel fine. I suppose I’m just more practical’. Thanks for comforting me!

  16. I came across this page after looking for counsellors funny enough. I’ve never had counselling but feeling it’s time. I lost my mum 18 months ago to aggressive lung cancer, she fought a strong fight and was told weeks and maybe months but 12 months after diagnosis enduring a trachea which she dealt with amazingly, her determination was inspiring by all. When she passed away with me holding her hand after such a fight,I whispered mum be with dad who had also passed away at the age of 48 from Melanoma when I was just 17. I feel she needed to hear those words as she was holding on but after she passed I said I cried and cried and said I will never be ready to say goodbye, and have not stopped crying since, my mum and I talked about everything and several times a day, she was my best friend and miss her dearly and my heart actually aches. I remember when dad died when I was 17 she was soo strong for us kids and she always said there are people worse off than us and she was right, no matter what your dealing with there are always people worse off. And that’s how we lived our lives. Since dad died mum enjoyed 3 beautiful granddaughters and loved life. Since her cancer diagnosis in intensive care unit, life changed. My mum fought so hard she didn’t want to go and either did we. As her carer and daughter I saw her go through treatments and a trachea which was traumatic and the way she dealt with it was inspiring.. I’ve always been a strong person and know that there are people worse off but have really struggled with mum’s death and keep telling myself no I had a beautiful 70 years with her so be grateful which I am but its definitely changed me as a person and I know mum would hate that. I feel it’s time to get a bit of help as grief has gone on too long x

    • Hi Tracey. I just read your sad yet inspiring post. I’m in my 40’s and lost my lovely mother 16months ago to that evil c word. She was older than your brave mum, (in her 80’s). But she wanted to go. She’d had enough of life. She didn’t want to hang around being so ill, as she was strong too. She was very independant. She had her own house, loved living alone, loved music, reading, would go on college courses, drove her own car. Was outgoing, funny & very kind. She was a retired nurse. My father died 30 yrs ago. (Massive heart attack in Epping Forest). He was 52, i was 17. My mother was widowed at 52, my brother was 24, i was the youngest. But mum just got on with things. This brought us much closer together. I think i became too clingy. Then when i was 21, i developed arthritis. (All my joints). On loads of medication. Sometimes bedridden. Plus i now have glaucoma & iritis. I have longterm treatment. Always in & out of hospitals. My mum was the best. My best friend too. I feel like i’ve lost 2 people. This is the worst thing i’ve ever faced without her. A few months after she died, i had grief counselling. I had a 5 month group counselling course. I think it helped a little. Meeting people who are all roughly going through the same thing.
      I really wish you well in your journey of grief. I try to think of grief as a long road. Don’t leave your mum behind. Take her with you. Imagine she’s next to you. But try not to let the loss consume you. It’s like that lovely poem. Miss me but let me go. Good luck. Alot of people understand your loss. x

    • I lost my Dad a little over 7 months ago. I am 47 years old. My dad was 72. He was not feeling good for about 2 weeks. He had loss of appetite and pain. We took him to the ER on July 21 3018. They discovered he had Metastasis Lung cancer to the Liver. Sent us home and we made appointments with pulmonologist/ oncologists etc. he had several tests done before appointment. Regular blood work with family doctor. Every couple if days. It just kept getting worse. On August 1, 2018 we were sent to Hershey medical Center. They admitted my dad. They did a biopsy and found the cancer was spread all through his lungs, liver, lymph nodes, and bones. So there was nothing that could be done. We brought dad home to his house and a family member was with him 24/7. My dad died Monday August 13! From the day we found out until he died, it was 3 weeks. His last 4 days at home he suffered! He looked like my dad and 13 days later he was so thin and helpless! I’m having a rough time right now for about a week now. I feel like I did right when this happened. Any advice would be so much appreciated! Thank you!

      • Oh you poor love. My dear daddy passed away from pancreatic cancer which took him oh so quickly in 4 weeks from diagnosis. The shock was awful. I know how you feel and it’s very hard. I’m sending you love and strength… keep the knowledge you were and are loved by your Dad. He sees. 💕💕

    • Am really sorry for your loss. As am reading what you wrote, my heart ached for you..i know that pain. I lost my mom 6 weeks ago and she was 59. I am still in the state of shock and disbelief.
      I wish you get all the help you need to heal that pain.

    • Tracey your story was very endearing to me. I too. lost my mom 17 months ago, to Alzhiemer’s. My mom was diagnosis with this debilitating disease 18yrs before she expired. I took care of her, never put her in a nursing facility; because our roles somehow reversed. I became her mother and she was my baby literally. Our relationship was tumultuous at best, especially during my early years. Mom was drinking heavily and what it seemed at the time was not so. Her negating from her duties as a parent. I finally gathered the courage to ask her why she was drinking so much. She looked me dead in my eyes, saw the pain she was inflicting and from that day on, she never indulged in drinking again. She explained to me that she had to endure the loss of a child and never properly dealt with it and alcohol became her coping mechanism. My mom was my best friend, I could tell her anything and never worry about being judged. Losing her changed me, I no longer see color, everything is gray because my sunshine is gone. I realize that ever person is different in their grieving process, so I have put forth the work to put this chapter in my life in its right perspective. After all my sunshine would encourage me to add some color to my life and celebrate her with the memories I will forever carry in my heart and mind. So Tracey, I encourage you to move forward and keep moving until you see a rainbow of colors!

  17. I lost my wife of 25 years to Cancer in August. While she was being treated our middle son, 19, died in a car collision. I have a 16 year old son at home. He and I are changed forever. For the first time yesterday I saw him truly laugh. It was wonderful. It all just hurts so much. The evenings are unbelievably lonely. We live out in the country. Anna was my best friend. I cry most days. I am 57 and I have hope that I will see my wife and son in heaven. Without that hope I don’t know what I would do. Some days are ok but most days I cry and scream in my truck on the way home and then pull it together for my son. My prayers are for peace and acceptance. For now it is just brutal.

    • Bob, I’m so terribly sorry to read about the loss of your wife and your son. I lost my husband almost 3 years ago. I found this article this morning. Made me realize I am suffering with complicated grief. I hope you (and anyone reading this article) have a strong support system in place. I wish I had taken the necessary steps to prevent this early on, as was recommended by a grief counselor. I felt I was strong enough to get through it. Obviously, I wasn’t. Sending prayers and lots of love and support to you and your son. May God bless you all, keep you strong and help you through this very difficult time.

    • Sending you strength for you and your son!

  18. It’s hard to explain that losing my Mom to cancer was a seriously traumatic event. Many people say that at least I had the chance to say goodbye — but really my Dad and I didn’t. I’m 30 years old and an only child. It was 6 weeks almost to the day from the onset of mom’s symptoms to her death -5 weeks before we started hospice. Dad and I had to choose together to put mom on hospice because she wanted to keep fighting so hard yet she would slip into and out of delirium from the tumors, and was far too weak for another round of treatment. She was home only 6 days during this 6 week timespan and both times she was sent home Dad and I alone would care for her, she couldn’t stand on her own, wouldn’t take her medication because of the delirium, one time before we (and the doctors actually) understood that the tumors were causing sepsis, she went into septic shock at home and I thought she was about to die in my arms before the paramedics got there.

    After Dad and I made the decision that mom needed hospice, mom was only conscious for another day or so, and she refused to talk about what was happening. So as she lay sleeping once she became mostly non responsive I’d talk to her, tell her I would be okay, that dad and I would take care of one another, and that I loved her. So did I get to say goodbye? Maybe technically but I still have no closure. My nightmares aren’t of her death, but of her being sent home to dad and I and knowing it was our job to keep her stable without the right equipment to do so. It’s only been 2 weeks since her death and I’m planning to go to grief counseling but with the holidays approaching and people taking time off I’m hesitant to start only to have to stop again until the new year.

  19. I lost my 28 year old son 5 years ago come February. I write “5 years” and yet it feels like yesterday…. in fact it’s 5 years ago for everyone else… for “Me”… It’s every day… every day when wake, then realize that he is no longer here… My sleep still feels interrupted. By that I mean I feel “awak/asleep” many nights. Recently more so probably because the holidays are upon us which always brings with it sadness and missing… (the lead up is worse than the actual holiday-day). I have more than 3 of the points noted above and have been to “see someone” and as well have taken depression medication of which I am now off. It’s complicated..yes… complicated because it is time that must go by in order for us to build a “new normal” without one of our children and no amount of medication, support or faith can replace the time that is needed to pass. Don’t misunderstand.. I believe all those things help you through it, but it won’t “fix” it and that is the worst part of it all… Learning & Accepting that nothing will “fix you”…. that you will live with pain forever and that is so, so scary because the pain is so intense you cannot believe you can possibly survive it… but somehow you wake up to another day. The waves of grief ebb and flow at different tides…. some days are calm and others are a storm. Be kind to yourself. Know when to rest but more importantly…. Know when to get up…. you must get up!! And please remember these words which were shared with me by another grieving mother…. “God does not take our children…. but he does give us the strength to bare it”.

  20. My wife died suddenly at home 7 weeks ago at 30 years old. I was at work. I am now a single father to four children ages 2, 4, 7, and 10 years old. My wife and I lost a fifth child, our son, five years ago. Both died of heart related issues. I had just excepted our sons death earlier this year. I could just never except he died. It is hard to feel that my remaining days left here are not unlike a prison sentence. I have a prolific support group with my family but I feel burdensome to them when I talk about how I feel. My wife was my best friend before we married. She remained my closest confidant throughout our marriage. I do not know who to talk to about how I feel because she is who I would always
    speak to about something like this. I would state in my experience that all grief is complicated to the one trying to endure it. Grief is not an entre in the oven that a timer can be set to say when it is completed. I believe the experience of the individual varies as will their process through grief. I would welcome a six month turnaround on my feelings of complete and utter loss. I submit that the experience of grief is far more valuable to understanding its normalcy than merely spectating its devastation.

    • I just read your post. My heart breaks for you! Sending you strength and courage to help you to keep moving forward with your children.

  21. My son died from complications after a “Bone marrow transplant” He was 29yrs old. This happened 6/13/18. I got through the funeral and was surprised I did. But now, I’m having rough spots. Right now I’m sitting in the floor of my closet writing this! I can’t get myself going. Yesterday I was ok, today I’m not! I miss him more and more every day! People have asked me, have you seen signs? I have a bird feeder so I can see cardinals everyday. I have seen feathers, coins, even had a very vivid dream about him. I really want to believe its him, but is it really? How do we really know. I just can’t believe he is gone, and I just miss him so much! I have no desire to work. I was his caregiver and now I feel useless. Does anyone else relate?

    • I know exactly how you feel !! My son was 10 and died 6 months ago.
      He took gvhd very bad after bonemarrow transplant ! I am in total shock everything he endured through his 18 months off treatment ‘ and now that he has gone thats all I can remember . I lie in my bed every night , and just cry thinking about my darling son amd wish I was with him 😥. I have 2 daughters but my son was my best friend and my only son and I honestly feel like he has been cheated on life. So yes ur not alone ‘but we have just to remember our boys with happy times , and they know they were loved by us and are with us everyday 🙏

  22. My sister died a month ago today. I haven’t stopped crying. Everyday I cry and when my children are asleep I cry so hard I start screaming. Everything reminds me of her and I feel completely and utterly alone in the world. Its was always just me and my sister. We had a rough childhood and clingled to each other desperately. She was my only sibling and my baby sister. We talked 3 to 4 times a day on the phone and never went more than 2 to 3 months without seeing eachother, even though we lived a few states away. I can honestly say she was the closest person to me. She lived with me up until her late 20s which was only a few years ago. 3 weeks ago after my wedding she died suddenly, leaving behind a little baby and a toddler. After her husband called me and told me that she died. I just remembered falling to the floor and screaming. I beg god constantly to bring her back, I have dreams about her that shes still alive and I wake up every day wishing it was true. I was a fairly new christian before this happened and now I am so angry at god. I cannot bring myself to church. People say the most stupidest things like “shes in a better place” …really ?! How do you know? Because she was 30yrs old and left 2 babies without a mother. Where is better than being with your children?!? I don’t think people understand my grief because she was my sister not child or mother but our bond was stronger than almost anyone else, my kids are devastated because she helped me raise them. I am devastated I can barely function in public I am fine but the minute I am alone I completely break down. I don’t want to live in a world without her in it. I am so hurt I feel like my heart was ripped out.

  23. My 26 yo son died unexpectedly June 1, 2018. No clues, nothing. He was a heroin addict for about 4 yrs. He had been clean for 3 yrs, doing well. Had a job he enjoyed. Then one day, he shot up (from a friend’s words) “just to try it one more time”. Well, that was the last time, as it took his life. My son,my daughtet n I were extremely close. Single mom their whole lives. We were the 3 musketeers, us against the world. I have all the grief symptoms to a T. Everyone tries to be caring & loving, but they are clueless as to what I’m truly going thru. I have started seeing a psychologist and am going next week to a grief group with other patents who truly know how completely broke I am. I think I “went thru the motions”right after, but the last few days have been pure hell & torture! I will NEVER be whole again, ever! The sun is not as bright, the flowers are not as fragrant, I feel like a zombie on a strange planet all alone. I want to die! But, as a Christian I couldn’t commit suicide, and there is NO WAY I could do that to my wonderful daughter, I love her sooo much more than I want to die. I’m severely depressed. My thoughts are consumed by my son. I have smelled all the smell out of his clothes & his pillow. I have been struggling with The Lord. I’m sooo pissed at Him, yet cling to Him daily. I hope He forgives my anger towards Him. I pray daily. My biggest issues is that I don’t know if Dylan (my son) believed in The Lord. That I will never know, and the ONLY thing that helps a bit, is my begging The Lord to give my son a second chance at redemption, as I so very badly want to see my sweet boy again in Heaven. I feel for all of you. I send my very deepest heartfelt condolences to each of you. May The Lord carry you through your agonizing grief. I will remember you all in my prayers. Thanks so much for sharing, in some strange was it helps to know there are others who “get me”. God Bless all! 🙏

  24. I lost my son to suicide 3 years ago this past April. He would have been 21 this year. He was on Citalopram for 4 weeks to the day before my sweetest boy took his life. For the first two years I grieved heavy. I needed answers so I spent my time doing massive research. While I now don’t feel any of those symptoms listed as complicated grief I would like those researchers to know what I know and feel. When your child completes suicide it literally rips a piece of your soul out. I call it soul tearing. I’ve taken a new job, going out with friends, laughing being normal. But I will always feel sadness because I loved this child so much. He’s gone and I’ve accepted that. My research, I will publish and put it out to the world in the hopes it will do some good. Today I reached out to someone who dealt with him, psychologist to ask some follow questions. She hinted that maybe I should get some support which I had done previously. But here’s what I want “them” to understand. This event has changed my life and who I am – forever. I will never be the same. So for someone to complete the four stages of grief in a 6 month period of time, especially losing someone abruptly, is not realistic. There is no timeline and it’s different for every person.

  25. My younger and only brother died almost two years ago, suddenly from pneumonia, he was 41. The grief is worse now than initially. Worse because it was sudden, without warning. Since then it is like the movie ground hog day, but in a negative sense. What if? I have begun to resent the word brother, that others have them and mine was stolen from me in the cover of night. I stop myself constantly from thinking what his last moments were dying alone in his apartment. That my elderly parents had to bury their child. Life is a burden, completely random and unfair. Right after he died I remember I could not catch my breath. I used to think there was life after death…now I don’t.

  26. Three years since I lost my son, 28 year old 12-13-14 to an impaired driver, also lost my sons wife and unborn son (8mths gestation), in the same vehicle. A mth later my ex husband shot himself in the head, killing himself, about 6mths later my step daughters boyfriend died, then just last mth my stepdaughter died in front of me. During the last three years I’ve had back surgery and a suspected stroke. I have PTSD, I suffered from depression my entire life, I just turned ,55 and just relieved disability so now have lost my career of 25+ years as a registered nurse, work with hospice do witnessed many deaths. I have every single one of the above symptoms. I have seen a grief therapist for three years, I’m on medication that makes it nearly impossible to cry. I have harmed myself and death is a welcome friend I’m anxious to meet myself. I’m not suicidal presently but none the less would love to not wake up. Grief is an all encompassing part of life but to lose children is not normal. Sorry so long and ove actually forgotten what my point was which happens all the time.

  27. I wish that we still had signs or traditions in our culture that show people we are still grieving, like wearing black for a certain time period. When my husband died last October, I thought about hanging a black wreath on my front door, or a black ribbon on my mailbox. I think it’s a double blow when there is absolutely no acknowledgement of death in our society, of it all being so hushed up. Society expects everything to snap back to normal on Monday morning, and it does make you feel insane.

  28. The second year is harder, when everyone else is getting on with their lives and you are left behind, stuck in your grief, you pretend you are getting on with things and processing the grief healthily but the reality is you’re not but don’t want others to know or worry.

    its been four years now since the death of my 15 year old daughter and its still all about her, i relate everything to her, in conversations i hear myself saying ‘ jamie did that’ or ‘jamie used to say that’ in fact i have to try to stop myself talking about her because i think people will get fed up of hearing about it. I have had 3 other significant losses since Jamie died, mum, dad and unborn baby, but i feel nothing for them, only her. Each loss intensifies my grief for her. Four years is a long time to have this grief, i believe it is complicated grief now because i’m struggling to move forward, to enjoy anything or to feel anything, something has got to give and i cant spend the rest of my life trapped in this grieving state. of course i will always miss her and yearn for her and i should be able to talk about her etc. but its more than normal grieving, i don’t want to go to work, i don’t want to see people, i don’t enjoy anything and its a joke now, i just want to feel happy and enjoy the 3 children i have left.

    I think you know if you have complicated grief because your mind is stuck, you don’t feel any progress, it’s not about how you feel about the loss of your loved one, its about if you are able to feel again, enjoy other things again, are you beginning to feel normal in your head? The pain of your loss will never go away, but if the rest of your life is on hold because of it then there’s a problem

  29. My daughter committed suicide on Christmas 2015 at my ex wife’s house across my state. I had not seen her in 2 years due to a previous disagreement we had. She was 25 at the time. I was across the country in another state helping take care of my sick Mother at the time.
    My Mother died 14 hours later ( December 26) after I had received the phone call from my ex late on Christmas night in forming me of my Daughter’s suicide.
    I deal with guilt, regret,anxiety and sadness every day .It has been 15 Months.
    I am not working and living off a small pension I receive from the grocery union .
    I am maintaining but that’s about it. No health insurance either.
    The only escapes I have are drinking and sleeping.
    I am in a real rut and cannot seem to get out of it….the feelings even occur in my dreams. I feel lost……..Thank You for reading..

  30. My sister would normally tell me what are you reading there?Still reading these things on the net?Still not being able to eat normally, to sleep,to feel better.Well, the truth is that it’s been almost two years now (23 months actually) since I lost my fiance of melonoma.My friends call me telling me that they’re getting married,have children,worry about losing their job. And what do I do? I every day begin by telling my self that I feel better.That there’s nothing wrong with me If I laugh with a joke, If I meet a friend for a drink or a coffee.Still most of the times I’ve seen them and done so,it was only to re assure them that I was fine, I was not depressed,I did not need them.No, I do not cry everyday,I never cried a lot I think after the loss.I felt numb, getting crazy,angry,alone,different(I am a young widow), I am different, sad,depressed.I just avoid doing things we did together,that is living a life. I cannot think my self of feeling worried or love and affection for someone else.I don’t even care If friends cope with their lives.My heart is still aching, my mind in despair and the only comfort I find is smoking, walking and believe it or not worrying about how not to look devastated anymore. I pretend that yes, it’s the second memorial in a month, but I am here and I am doing just fine.The truth is that I am not.Depression?Complicated grief?I do not really care.The thing is that sometimes it is hard to pretend anymore.Do not tell me that he would want me to be happy.I already know that.

  31. Well, it’s difficult NOT to feel intense anger at the type of death since it so happens that someone literally flew out of a clear blue sky and exploded the plane into the building in which he worked. Then for the next 102 minutes, while the terrorists died instantly, people inside the towers suffered grotesque endings that in some cases took more than 10 minutes to occur.
    I don’t see how it’s “normal” NOT to feel intense emotions about it but I’m convinced that nobody else would experience much more than fury at what they did. Especially when you’re constantly reminded how the suspects who are still living feel zero remorse for what they’ve done yet have gone as far as to stage “not-eating protests” so that they die or you have to feed them through a tube, and either way YOU look like the ‘bad guy.’
    These are the people who already had evidence against them linking them to the 9/11 operation beFORE anyone carried out the utterly insane idea of torturing them for MORE details. These people have the gall to feel no guilt whatsoever for what they know they did (if they DID it), then manipulate a situation to make themselves look like the victims.
    I find it insulting, but I don’t believe I have complicated grief. I think I have grief created from a death by unnecessary violence.
    Besides, I have a friend whose daughter was killed at the Aurora movie theater when she was watching ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ and the mother is so enraged about it she makes my anger look tame.
    She says things like “My daughter was killed – no, slaughtered – by someone who never should have had access to a gun.” Which I agree with; he never should have been allowed to have a PEA shooter. She reproduced part of her daughter’s death report, so people would know what the bullets did to the body. Being a paramedic, I already knew. But I couldn’t imagine many people being able to handle it if that was their introduction to a coroner’s details of a violent death. She’s really intense but I still think she’s “more normal,” whatever that is, than I am.
    She was mentally stable before her daughter was killed by James Holmes.
    I was never “normal.” When I was 13 a boy in my class committed suicide by shooting himself with a .357 and my mom made us go to the funeral and look at him in the casket. A year before that someone in my 6th grade class died of cancer. I don’t think that’s a normal chain of events for a tween child to see. A child dying of cancer and another committing suicide but those were my introductions to death. A child dying of cancer, a teenager committing suicide. It seemed wrong from the moment I heard of it; I expected my first death experience to be with someone older, who succumbed to an illness. Not an 11-yr old dying of cancer and a 13-yr old shooting himself with a handgun that wasn’t made for a child.

  32. I lost my soulmate two years ago this March and while I have lost other loved ones in my life – no one’s death has ever affected me like his. I think a big part of it is because we only had 16 months together and I feel like he was taken from me way too soon. The rest is that I never had a releationship like I had with him with any one else. He totally got me and supported me in anything I took on. I miss him terribly and still wish he was here with me. I look for him everywhere and I see him everywhere. A person who resembles him, walks like him, a song, a smell – and I often go back and sit at his house (which sits in a time warp) and long to see him step out the door.
    Yes, there have been plenty times past and present that I have isolated myself and felt isolated when I am in a group. I have wondered if I am going crazy or if I am moving through grief as I should. I have done group counseling through a couple of churches. I have researched and read a lot on the subject of grief.
    What I have come to realize is grief is a roller coaster and there is no time frame to getting over it – in fact I don’t think we ever really get over it. We some how just learn to live with it.

  33. Dear Eleanor –
    Thank you for your kind and well-thought-out response.
    I didn’t really mean to direct my anger at you and Litsa, but at the “researchers” who don’t know grief.
    Sorry for my rant.
    – Robyn

  34. The Columbia University researchers “suggest that three or more of these symptoms persisting beyond 6 months may be an indicator of complicated grief and a reason to consider professional support.”
    I suggest that a parent who has lost a child and does NOT have three or more of these symptoms persisting beyond six months DOESN’T EXIST.
    Ah, yes, of course we should all “consider professional support.” And certainly we should all be on massive doses of antidepressants. Because mourning your child for more than SIX MONTHS is entirely abnormal.
    I lost my beautiful daughter one year ago. I would say that I suffer, to some extent, with EVERY SINGLE ONE of the listed “symptoms.”
    I’m calling bullshit on their “research.” It’s not “complicated,” it’s simple. I had a wonderful daughter that I loved with every fiber of my being for 32 years. I will never see her again.

    • Robyn,

      I am very sorry about the death of your daughter, I would in no way expect the passing of a year to lessen your pain. Here on this site we believe that there are no timelines when it comes to grief and that you will experience grief “symptoms” in one form or another, at one time or another, possibly forever.

      Although we don’t advocate for antidepressants when they aren’t actually warranted and absolutely necessary, if someone’s symptoms are worsening and/or they are living with high levels of anger, emptiness, isolation, anxiety, shock, depression, we might recommend they talk to a counselor. Going to a counselor in our eyes means talking things out with someone who can help their client find insight and provide a nonjudgemental ear and honestly this would be our recommendation to anyone experiencing these types symptoms for prolonged periods of time – grief or no grief.

      You are not alone in questioning the research behind “Complicated Grief”, many think ‘Complicated Grief’ may just be grief coupled with a pre-existing condition like depression, anxiety disorder, etc. I assure you we are not here trying to classify grief as a pathology, in fact we know grief can make you feel totally crazy for a long long time. If anything we are here trying to normalize grief, but a part of this is also normalizing effective coping methods like counseling, support groups, etc.

      Thank you for your comment. Again, I am so very sorry about your daughter’s death.

      Eleanor Haley

      • Thank you,thank you, thank you, Robyn. Our son passed away a year ago and I’ve been thinking exactly as you have stated about calling bullshit on this complicated grief . You gave me some peace to know what I’m feeling isn’t abnormal. I always thought that if a parent wasn’t having all these feelings then something was terribly wrong. We hurt so bad because we loved so hard.

  35. 18 months after the death of my son i am still devastated-its not complicated just a fact.

    • Nicola, I am so sorry about the death of your son. 18 months is not long at all after a loss. We grieve in some way forever after a loss. We are devastated forever. Grief does change and get easier with time, but for many grievers that timeframes is far longer than just a year or two. We hope you find some support and resources on our site that may be of help.

  36. I go to a support group lead by a councilor . 13months now . A six month time table! I think everyone there must have crazy complicated grief !

    • 13 months is absolutely normal! There is this pervasive myth that somehow we ‘move on’ or stop grieving after one year. The reality is many people have intense symptoms of grief for more than one year. Working in this field we often hear people express that sometimes the second year is actually harder than the first! Grief happens in its own way and time for everyone.

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