Prevalence and Risk

The best estimate for the prevalence rate of complicated grief is about 7% of people who have ever lost someone they consider important and about 60% of the overall population reports having had such a loss. This means that more than 10 million people are likely suffering from complicated grief in the United States alone. Some people are more at risk for CG than others. Risk may be related to characteristics of the person, the circumstances of the death or things that happen after the death. It is worth remembering that anyone can develop complicated grief and that most people are resilient.

Here are some examples of ways that risk might be increased

  • You have a history of problems with anxiety or depression before the death
  • You were raised in a family where you did not feel emotionally understood and secure
  • You have a history of a lot of important losses
  • The person who died was a child or young adult
  • The person who died was a long-term romantic partner with whom you had a very close and rewarding relationship
  • The death was by violent means (suicide, homicide, accident)
  • The death notification was especially traumatic
  • Behavior of others before or after the death was hostile or extremely insensitive

Complicated grief after a loss of a romantic partner

Our life partners are part of our day-to-day life and often our most important companions. Losing them can affect us profoundly and increase the risk of developing complicated grief.

Complicated grief after the loss of a child

Parents who have lost a child may feel waves of self-blame or surges of anger at the unfairness of it. Their minds filled with thoughts and memories of their child, it can seem impossible to imagine how to go on with their own lives

Complicated grief after a suicide

Suicide is more common than we realize. Yet, people who lost a loved one to suicide might feel ashamed to share the truth with others. They might also struggle to shake off thoughts that they are somehow responsible for this death.