Prolonged grief disorder: what is it and how to overcome it?

Prolonged grief disorder is a new diagnosis that has voices for and against. Let’s see what it is and what tools we have for accompaniment.

Last update: 27 April, 2022

Like all moments in life that require time, the loss of a loved one is no exception. When the process is overextended, it could be a prolonged grief disorder.

Everyone has their own way of grieving, but they must give themselves the space to do so. However, that time should not advance like a tide until we drown. If not, it would have to mutate into a pleasant memory of the loved one or an apprenticeship.

What is prolonged grief disorder?

Recently, prolonged grief was incorporated into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses. Get the name of disorder either prolonged grief syndrome Y refers to suffering from the loss that lasts a year or moreimpacting the person’s daily life.

Prolonged grief disorder is like chronic grief. The person cannot tolerate or assume the loss, so he remains stuck in that event. Many people report feeling “in a suspended reality”.

To understand these cases we must think about whether the loss can be integrated. For example, if the deceased lived with the person, the person completely annuls the room, as if stopping time. There are those who leave the room intact, just as it was before death occurred.

This is not a new phenomenon, although it receives another type of notoriety from what happened in the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the health situation, many people were unable to say goodbye to their loved ones, which made it difficult to closing.

Although it is necessary to emphasize that grief is something very unique, that is, an individual adaptive response, it is also a process that goes through stages until it reaches a moment in which it is possible to move on. This does not mean that one forgets the deceased person, but rather that his absence becomes tolerable.

The duel does not have a specific time, but there are characteristics that indicate if it goes on too long.

Risk factor’s

Factors that influence (or could influence) prolonged grief include the following:

  • Lack of a group or social network capable of providing restraint.
  • Having spent a lot of time caring for the deceased person: difficulties appear in finding a new meaning to life.
  • Pathological history in anxiety or depression disorders.
  • Loss of family members due to COVID-19 or by some other traumatic event, for example, sudden physical disappearance due to a murder or an accident. Is that which It has no explanation and causes a strong emotional impact.
  • Living with the deceased person and type of relationship: also if there are feelings of ambivalence: love/hate towards the deceased.
  • Economic situation: that the deceased person was the primary provider for the family.
  • Gender: some reviews refer that being a woman could influence the way of going through the loss.


Symptoms of prolonged grief disorder

Some of the symptoms that show that it is a disorder are the following:

  • Obsessive, recurring, or ruminating thoughts arise regarding the deceased person. For example, the circumstances prior to death are reviewed over and over again, trying to identify whether something could have been done differently.
  • Difficulty enjoying activities that used to cause joy or pleasure. There is apathy.
  • Conversations can become monothematic. It only talks about who is missing, about their memories.
  • There is no meaning to life itself. It is as if everything stops and is put on hold. In some cases, it can lead to ideas about death itself.
  • Difficulties related to rest: insomnia, nightmares

Looking at this list, we can see that these are symptoms of any duel. However, the difference lies in the fact that in order to talk about a disorder, it is necessary to consider the duration, the intensity and the way in which daily life is altered.



How to deal with prolonged grief disorder?

Some recommendations to accompany someone who is going through a complex duel are the following:

  • It is important to trust the person, encourage her to get ahead. At this time she is in disbelief in her own abilities.
  • Arrange (and accept) recreation plans to get out of this vicious circle. It is necessary to meet other people, go for a walk, etc.
  • Keep an open, active listening, without prejudging. Allow those who suffer to express themselves and avoid set phrases or commitment. Appeal to empathy.
  • Show yourself available, but do not impose yourself. Be respectful of what the other needs.

Beyond the recommendations, it is necessary to recognize that each person is unique and we have to adapt our bra. There are no universal recipes and therein lies the value of the accompaniment.

The accompaniment of grief is individual and each person needs different support.

Accompany the duel, but not pathologize it

From its incorporation in the aforementioned diagnostic manual (known as DSM-V), diverse and controversial positions also emerged. This is a debate that has been going on for years in the world of mental health.

On the one hand, those who are in favor say that it is about providing tools to those who are going through a particular situation. Just as it accompanies those who have phobias or any other disorder, it should also be the support here.

On the other hand, there are the voices that do not agree with its inclusion. They are opposed, since they consider that it is pathologize a natural process. In addition, they add that it will surely be a way of commodify and even medicalize pain.

Perhaps, what it is about is making a complete reading of the context, according to the particular case of each person. It is not to pathologize, of course, but to provide tools and verify that there are no other background factors.

Let’s naturalize that there are people who need more time than others, just as there are those who may need more help. Accepting that pain is part of society and life is the key.

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