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Grief copy

Complicated Grief

By Esther Lau, 2015 ACTS Student Counsellor

Life is full of loss. The loss of a spouse, family member, or close friend is possibly most painful and challenging in our lives. Are you experiencing the loss of someone you loved and feeling stuck?

How do individuals cope with loss?

Grief is a normal process to adapt loss. Most people experience mixture feelings of numbness, guilt, depression, anger, and guilt. Gradually, these feelings would subside, and people can accept the loss and move forward in their lives.

What is complicated grief?

However, some people are seriously impacted by loss. They experience a sense of meaningless, a prolonged yearning or searching for the deceased that result in emotional, physical, social, and daily functioning impairment. Failure to accept the loss may cause unwillingness to adapt to new roles, disengagement in social activities, and fixation on the past. This is known as complicated grief.

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of bereaved persons, who have severe reactions to loss, suffer complicated grief and require counseling intervention and or prescription. Bereaved individuals with histories of clinical depression, anxiety, additions, prior trauma or loss, insecure attachment style,being a caregiver for the deceased, a violent cause of death, and isolation after the loss predict greaterchance of developing complicated grief.

How do you know you need help?

People with complicated grief find their symptoms don’t go away, but get intense over time. If you are experiencing difficulties in performing daily routines, accepting the loss, and engaging social activities, or you are losing sense of purpose in life, having feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, and even hopelessness, you probably need professional help. At times, some grievers may consider suicide. If you have thoughts of suicide, call 911 or crisis services number right away.

No one can escape from experiencing loss in one’s life time. The journey of grief can be various from person to person. If you feel stuck in the loss and not sure how to move forward, you may want to seek help from professionals. Many counsellors are willing to walk with you in the midst of loss and grief. You are not alone.


Esther Lau is currently working towards her M.A. in counselling at ACTS Seminaries.  She is also one of the student counsellors who had been offering their services to clients of Burnaby Counselling Group  in 2015.