Complicated Grief

The following is an excerpt from a news article distributed by Reuters. The discussion of grief here refers primarily to the death of a loved one. The loss of the Assembly is more like the catastrophic death of one's entire family. Many former Assembly members are still grieving the losses, and may well be experiencing "complicated grief."

It's normal to feel sadness and grief with the passing of a loved one, but difficulties "moving on" with life after a period of time, an intense and persistent yearning for the person who died, and a sense that life and the future are meaningless and purposelessness, are signs of "complicated grief," warns a group of Dutch doctors.

"Although some of these symptoms also occur in people with normal grief (as opposed to complicated), in people with complicated grief these symptoms are very intense and persist for at least 6 months, to the point of functional impairment," Dr. Paul A. Boelen, a psychologist and psychotherapist from Utrecht University in The Netherlands, told Reuters.

In other words, he said, "People with complicated grief are basically stuck in a state of chronic grieving."

"... There is now very much evidence that complicated grief is a very debilitating mental health condition, that is distinct from more familiar depressive and anxious symptoms and syndromes, and that poses people at risk for considerable and persistent health impairments," Boelen said.

"...Personality styles such as insecure attachment and high neuroticism have been found to be risk factors," he said. Negative thinking and particular types of avoidance behaviors (i.e., suppressing thoughts and emotions about the loss, and failing to adapt ones everyday life) also put people at risk for CG.

Boelen and colleagues have developed a cognitive-behavioral treatment approach, which aims to get the individual to process the loss, identify and change problematic beliefs and interpretations about the loss. This strategy has proven to be very successful, Boelen said.

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