When Your Grief Is Complicated, How Can You Cope?

Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey_Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey

Yes, of course, everyone grieves differently. That said, there can come a point for all of us when we realize that things are complicated. Your feelings of bereavement are prolonged and chronic. Time passes and you can’t find any sign that you’ve processed the loss or resolved your grief. This is commonly called complicated or complex grief.

Typically, a person in mourning will experience some very painful emotions. But the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) sets a period of 12 months as the normal grieving period. With complicated grief, your brain is guiding you to avoid resolution and this requires an intervention. 

Signs of Complicated Grief

Please keep in mind that many of these symptoms are viewed as “normal” for grieving. However, when they persist, it is often a sign of dysfunction. 


  • Fatigue, exhaustion, and low energy
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Changes in weight or appetite (more or less)
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Digestive problems


  • Extreme feelings of loss and sorrow
  • Only focusing on the loss instead of finding solace in positive memories 
  • Thoughts fixated on the deceased loved one 
  • Feeling numb and detached 
  • Inability or unwillingness to plan for the future 
  • Self-withdrawal and isolation 
  • Distrusting of others
  • Feeling guilt and blaming yourself
  • Inability to carry out basic daily functions
  • Thoughts of death and/or wishing you died along with your loved one
  • Suicidal thoughts  

Needless to say, these are symptoms to be ignored or taken lightly. It is vital that you speak with a professional as soon as you can. At the same time, there are other steps you can take along the way.

Ways to Cope With Complicated Grief

Don’t Blame or Pressure Yourself

Complicated grief is no one’s fault. Loss can be traumatic and there is no shame in having trouble with the process. Be patient and self-compassionate. You don’t need an artificial timetable imposed on you. What you need are guidance and support. Please seek that out. 

Allow Yourself to Replay What Happened

As tempting as it may be to suppress such memories, this tendency will only prolong your suffering. Acceptance of the events along with feeling what you need to feel is a giant step toward finding some peace. Emotions are scary but not impossible. If you can discuss them, you can manage them.

Seek Ways to Express Your Feelings

There is no limit to how this can be accomplished. You might:

  • Keep a journal
  • Join a bereavement group
  • Find a creative outlet
  • Cultivate meditative practices like mindfulness, yoga, or hiking

Whatever avenue you choose, the idea is to normalize expression in a healthy manner. Get more comfortable with letting others know how you feel.

Practice Self-Care

This is one of those basics that never leads you astray. Everyone needs resilience to navigate the inevitable ups and downs of life. Some of the elements that help in this effort include:

  • Keeping regular sleep patterns
  • Making healthy eating choices
  • Engaging in some kind of exercise or physical activity every day
  • Developing methods of stress management

Maintaining a daily self-care regimen also serves as a reminder of your own importance. When you prioritize yourself, you are more likely to value yourself. This is a giant step toward getting the help you need for complicated grief.

Therapy is a Proven Path For Recovery

People may talk about the different stages of grief but, in many ways, it is mysterious. Finding your way through while mourning a loss is a challenge for anyone. Fortunately, you do not have to do this alone. Committing to therapy empowers you to benefit from the experience of a professional guide. Let’s connect and talk soon. 

Creative Arts Therapy Source offers in-person therapy on Long Island. Online therapy is available across New York & New Jersey.