by Sheryl A. Isaacs, MS
Registered MFT Intern,IMF71453
Supervised by Julie Carboni, LMFT, MFC42890
at A Place of Refuge Counseling Center
Scotts Valley, CA
Child Therapist and Family Therapist
*Marriage / Couples Counseling
Complicated grief extends beyond six months after the loss for children and twelve months after the loss for adults. The main criterion to remember is that this grief interferes with your ability to function; it does not lessen over time. Children may engage in play that relates to being reunited, play that reflects the separation from the deceased or play that expresses concern that others close to them will die. Children may experience survivor’s guilt when a sibling is lost and wonder why they were chosen to live. You may experience preoccupation of the loss in regard to how the death occurred, avoiding things that remind you of the loss, or being preoccupied with the one that died. You may become confused about your role in life, desire to die or have recurrent thoughts that it should have been you.
The death of child is a common trigger for complicated grief. Complicated grief can trigger hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. It is important to discuss these feeling and thoughts. When a child dies it is common for family members to not discuss the death to “protect” others from the loss and grief. However, even when the loss is not discussed all members continue to experience the grief. Discussing the thoughts and feelings related to the loss can help family members to realize they are not alone. Each member in the family shares the grief of the loss, whether it is expressed openly or not.
It is important to remember that grief is a normal and natural part of losing someone that we love. The problem occurs when grief does not lessen over time. Although we may experience some symptoms of grief longer, we should see a decrease in some grief symptoms. We will forever experience triggers to the grief such as holidays, birthdays and major life events. There should be a noticeable decrease in the grief and you should begin to feel like you are finally moving through the grief.
If you are not experiencing a lessening in grief and feel that you are moving through the grief, it is important that you seek contact with someone that can help you. A therapist can help you navigate the thoughts and feeling that you are experiencing. Therapy can help you increase your support system and give you coping tools to help you move through the difficult terrain of complicated grief. Therapy is a safe place to share your story, thoughts and feelings regarding your loved one.
loss and grief handouts
Eight myths about children and loss, Hospice Foundation of America
Helping after Neonatal Death: HAND
Many resources for books, websites, special needs, grief due to neonatal loss, infertility and more