Grief + Complicated Grief

Creating a life where we can once again feel joy and love

by Antonietta Corvasce


Grieving is a natural human response to loss. Healing from our losses is a process that requires more than just the passage of time – it requires our active participation. The road to healing means moving toward our pain, something many of us resist. But we heal by mourning our losses: talking about the deceased, crying, taking the space we need to reconcile ourselves to a new reality. Healing from loss doesn’t mean that we forget about our loved one. Rather the goal is to integrate the loss into our life. The goal is to create a life where we can once again feel joy and love.

No two people grieve in exactly the same way. Our grief is as unique as we are, as unique as the relationship we shared with our loved one. One person may feel anger and guilt, while another feels regret and sadness. For some of us, getting professional support from someone who understands the mechanisms of grief, and can facilitate our progress through it, allows the intensity of our pain to ease and helps us gain perspective on our losses.

Complicated Grief

Sometimes the normal symptoms of grief don’t improve with time and can become debilitating. This is known as complicated grief. In cases of complicated grief, individuals describe feeling stuck or consumed by their grief, the painful emotions so persistent that it is difficult for them to imagine ever again feeling fulfilled or joyful. They may ruminate over the loss of the beloved, able to think of little else. They may have trouble with everyday routines and responsibilities. Isolating oneself, prolonged feelings of depression, self-blame, and the feeling that life without the loved one isn’t worth living, may be indications of complicated grief.

Several risk factors may contribute to complicated grief, including a violent or sudden death, the death of a child, a suicide, or a difficult relationship to the deceased. Support and care are important for anyone who is grieving, but people suffering from complicated grief often need professional support and guidance in order to move through – and emerge from – the grieving process. Without this support, the griever often continues to suffer, which can adversely affect not only the one grieving but his or her family, friends, and co-workers.

As a therapist who has been trained to recognize and understand the risk factors and symptoms of complicated grief, I guide individuals through the difficult and painful grieving process. Although each person’s grief is unique, there are certain recognized needs that mourners must address in order to adjust to their loss and rebuild a life of meaning. By listening to my clients’ stories of loss, I am able to see where they are in the mourning process and why their healing has stalled. By teaching my clients about the process as we move through it, I support and guide them as they navigate the territory of mourning and move toward a place of healing.