The normal expectation of the grieving process is that after a while grief is no longer all-consuming and the person is creating a new life without the person or something that has been lost. That doesn’t mean that the sadness about the loss is going away completely. Whenever we are reminded of the loss, we will feel grief about the loss. However, this feeling is expected not to take over a person’s life.
For some people the pain never really lessens in severity and they struggle to resume their life. If that is the case, you may deal with what is known as ‘complicated grief’. It is complicated in that the person is stuck in the grieving process. The grieving person may have trouble to accept the loss or may be afraid by doing so could forget about the person that has been so central in his/her life.
Rather than celebrating the wonderful moments you had together, the focus is always on the loss and the terrible void that has been created by it. Daily routines, resuming work and pursuing a career, and forming new relationships becomes very difficult and may in some cases even be undermined.
You can recognise the symptoms of complicated grief by the intense longing and yearning for the lost other that manifests through constant occupation with thoughts and images about the loved one, the pervasive sense of disbelief about the death, fantasies of ‘what if he/she would still be alive’, the evoking memories of the other through pictures, visiting familiar places to feel a connection, extreme feelings of anger over the loss, and a sense that there is no future possible without the loved one and life is meaningless.
For those who are still strongly associated with their grief long after their loved one has died, useful support would entail to offer them help to dissociate or distract from their grief. As in many others areas of life, the secret ingredient is ‘balance’. It would be cruel to deny a person their time for grieving the loss of a loved one, it also would be kind to help a person to move on and re-discover the joys of life. In order to provide the right kind of support it is best to take the lead from the grieving person and gently offer the support that is available and possible.