Grief Course

Losing a loved one can be one of life’s most difficult and challenging stressors. The loss can result in a myriad cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses. Research indicates that grief may not follow predefined stages, rather incongruous patterns as the individual attempts to adapt to loss. Studies have indicated that the majority of individuals who experience grief due to loss exhibit low level symptoms. Some individuals may experience more moderate- high levels of grief which will likely decrease with time. However there are some individuals which will exhibit prolonged grief which will likely require intervention.

It is thought that the individuals level of connection with the deceased my influence the process of grief. There is however, an apparent lower correlation between resilience and sustained grief. More recently long-term grief has been defined as prolonged grief disorder. This is defined as significant, persistent and elevated mental distress 6-12 months following loss. Influences on prolonged grief may include dysfunctional thoughts (e.g. blame), avoidant behaviours, difficulty managing painful emotions, alternative health and social status, reduced social support, pre-existing mental health issues and the nature of the loss. These risk factors likely increase morbidity and mortality for the individual experiencing grief. If symptoms of depression are present early in grief there may be an increased risk of developing prolonged grief. Comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, sleep issues and increased substance abuse are often
seen in prolonged grief.

Grief Treatment

Careful assessment for prolonged grief includes the administration of specific testing which should include testing for other possible comorbidities. Research indicates that cognitive-behavioural interventions may help to improve grief-related outcomes. It is my experience that as with all presentations, a thorough clinical assessment and diagnoses is essential. A greater understanding of the individual holistically appears to produce greater outcomes. Genuine empathy with the client, understanding of historical and current factors influencing the client’s well-being are a must. This likely follows bespoke therapeutic intervention which includes recurrent monitoring and client feedback. Treatment can include management of comorbid conditions, substance misuse and attempting to regain positive aspects of the client’s life.

If you or a loved one have experienced grief our psychologists may be able to help.

Request an appointment with one our Psychologists by calling one of the following locations; Kidman Park, Dover Gardens, Hope Valley, Mitcham, Norwood, Stirling or Beverley.

Some information was gathered for this article from the following: Szuhany, K. L., Malgaroli, M., Miron, C. D, Simon, N. M. (2021). Prolonged Grief Disorder: Course, Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment. Focus, 19(2), 161–172. https://doi: 10.1176/appi.focus.20200052

Pro Psychology SA
David Ahmed, Psychologist

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