The following post was contributed by Laura Chapman, a writer on grief and mental disorders:
Creating an online tribute to remember someone’s life is a positive step you can take after the loss of a loved one. However, despite celebrating the life of someone who was close to you in this way, the grieving process is not easy and you may be left with lasting feelings of emptiness and a depressed mood. When this is the case, you are suffering from more than simply grief and you may have instead what is termed a grief disorder. It’s important that you recognize the symptoms of this so that you can receive timely treatment and support.
Recognizing a grief disorder
It’s natural to feel emotional after losing someone close to you, but certain emotions, particularly if they are lasting, are common when suffering from prolonged or more complex grief. For instance, you may feel numb, bitter or detached, and you may become preoccupied with your loss, losing interest and pleasure in the things that you used to enjoy. However, when experiencing a grief disorder, your physical health may suffer too. Symptoms such as a fatigue, aches and pains, and digestive problems may have a variety of causes, but if you have suffered a loss and your grief is intense that may be the trigger. Left untreated, grief disorder will affect your ability to cope in your everyday life, as well as leading to a variety of mental and physical health problems. Therefore, if you have recently suffered a loss and you can relate to the symptoms mentioned here, it’s best to seek professional help. A Government resource on the subject of grief suggests that it is particularly important to ask for support if you are struggling to talk about your feelings, you are preoccupied with thoughts about the loss of your loved one or you are using alcohol or drugs to cope.
Managing a grief disorder
Your doctor will assess your symptoms and will decide whether you are showing signs of more than just normal grief. When your doctor diagnoses grief disorder it can be a relief, as this explains why you have felt such strong and prolonged feelings. With this diagnosis they will usually offer you a form of talking therapy; there are counselors who specialize in grief treatment and their support will be invaluable for you, so ask whether you can be referred to a specialist in your area. However, as PsychGuides point out in their resource on grief disorder, you may also need treatment with antidepressants if you show signs of depression. Your doctor will decide whether these are appropriate given your circumstances, but if you receive a prescription for these drugs, it is important you take them as directed, as they offer symptom relief, which will help you to cope and aid your recovery. However, best results are usually seen when antidepressants are used alongside talking therapies, so be sure to keep your appointments with your counselor. If you have any worries about the antidepressants prescribed, including possible side-effects, speak to your doctor; they will offer reassurance and if necessary can adjust your medication.
With specialist support available, there’s no need to try to cope alone with intense grief. Taking the first step and requesting an assessment will put you on the road to recovery.
Updated: February 18, 2014