We use the term “complicated” to mean that something is getting in the way of coping with the death of a loved one. When grief is complicated the pain can be unrelenting and life seems empty of any possibility for happiness. We want to help lessen the pain. We want to make it possible to honor grief as a form of love.
Even though bereavement is a universal human experience, acute grief is often a disconcerting experience that is unique to each person and each loss. We want to help you understand how grief emerges naturally after a loss and seeks its rightful place in ongoing life and how to recognize and deal with complications that can stall or halt this process.
One of the difficult things about complicated grief is the feeling that everything in life is infused with a sense of absence and return of the deceased person is all that could relieve the pain. We want to help people find ways to restore meaningful connections to others, a sense of purpose and the possibility for happiness.
We believe that grief is a natural experience that is a form of love and that we each have the capacity to adapt to even the most difficult loss. Using this basic philosophy Dr. M. Katherine Shear, Director of the Center for CG, and colleagues developed a 16 session treatment approach that has been efficacy tested in 3 studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
If you have CG or know someone suffering in this way, you may be feeling hopeless but Dr. Bonnie Gorscak, a CGT therapist and supervisor, is not. She knows that CGT can make an enormous difference. She has also seen big changes in attitudes of therapists as they too learn this approach and find that they can help people get back on track in a relatively short period of time.
Ginny’s life was at a virtual standstill after her husband died. After suffering for two decades she was committed to doing whatever her CGT therapist asked and this commitment paid off. The deep pain finally receded. It felt like a miracle to her. In her words, she finally felt “human again.”
The motivation to form close relationships is part of our biological makeup. These relationships are important to our feelings of wellbeing and sense of belonging. The people we love help regulate our emotions, thoughts and behaviors and even some of our physiological processes. The better we understand love the better we can understand loss.
Bereavement is one of the most difficult things that can happen to a person. Even though we know that people die, when we lose someone close it is very hard to understand that they are gone. However, we need to find a way to accept the finality of the loss and all that it means to us. We need to be able to think about the future in a positive way even without the person we love.
Grief after loss of someone close is unique to each bereaved person and each loss. Yet grief is a universal and natural response, shared by people across the globe. Artists of all kinds have explored the experience of loss. Art can be a way for suffering people to feel a sense of common humanity.
People with CG may seek advice from health or mental health professionals. They feel relieved and understood when a helping professional asks questions about complicated grief symptoms. We want to help doctors, nurses, pastoral and lay counselors and other therapists become familiar with complicated grief and complicated grief treatment.
Most people do not grieve well alone. People typically gather around a bereaved person and provide comfort and solace. It is more difficult to support a person with complicated grief. Friends can become frustrated and relationships can falter. We want to help friends and family members understand CG and find ways to rebuild their relationship to their bereaved friend.
People often have compassion for the suffering of others but may have difficulty being compassionate toward themselves. Rationally you may know that everyone suffers but when you are in pain it can be hard to remember this. We want to help people learn about self compassion and ways to practice it.