Lindemann (1944), Lazare (1979) and Worden (2005) have identified numerous symptoms and behaviours that indicate unresolved / complicated grief. While many of the symptoms identified can be considered ordinary during the more acute earlier phase of grief, they are considered major signs of unresolved / complicated grief if they remain for unusually prolonged periods of time.
Also, the more symptoms an individual exhibits, the more likely they are experiencing unresolved grief (Worden, 2005; Freeman, 2005). Some of the symptoms are listed below:
- Over activity without a sense of purpose
- Acquisition of symptoms belonging to the last illness of the deceased
- Alteration in relationships with friends and relatives
- Lasting loss of patterns of social interaction
- Agitated depression with tension, insomnia, feelings of worthlessness, self accusation, obvious need for punishment and even suicidal tendencies
- Furious hostility towards someone connected to the death.
- Unwillingness to move the possessions of the deceased even after a reasonable amount of time has passed.
- A depressive syndrome to varying degrees of severity
- Symptoms of guilt and self reproach, panic attacks and somatic symptoms
- Somatic symptoms representing identification with the deceased, often symptoms of the terminal illness
- A feeling that the death has occurred yesterday even though the loss took place a long while back
- Inability to discuss the deceased without crying
- Changes in current relationships following death
- A history of delayed or prolonged grief
- Inability to speak of the deceased without experiencing intense grief emotions
- Unaccountable sadness during various times of the year
- Self destructive themes
- Radical changes in lifestyle
- Phobias about illness or death
- Over identification with the deceased leading to compulsion to imitate the dead person
- A relatively minor event triggering a major grief reaction.
- Exclusion of friends, family members or activities associated with the deceased.
- Freeman, S (2005). Grief and Loss: Understanding the Journey. Belmont, CA: Thompson Brooks/ Cole.
- Williamson. J.B. & Shneidman, E. (1995). Death: Current Perspectives. (4th ed.). California: Mayfield Publishing Company
- Worden, J.W. (2005). Grief Couselling and Grief Therapy: Handbook for Mental Practitioners (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
This article is an extract of Mental Health Academy’s Complicated Grief professional development course.