The loss of a loved one is inevitable yet remains one of the most intense and painful stressors a person will experience. Nonetheless, most people navigate through the pain and intensity of acute grief without clinical intervention. As individuals adapt to loss, the level of distress generally diminishes over time with a return to an altered but meaningful life without the deceased. A minority, approximately 7%,1 will continue to have a more severe and persistent form of grief, referred to as complicated grief. Recently, complicated grief was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition)2 as a persistent complex bereavement disorder requiring additional research, but also within trauma and stressor-related disorders, consistent with the notion that complicated grief is a stressor-related condition.3 Although proposed diagnostic criteria sets have some differences (eg, requiring 6 or 12 months since the death), the core constructs are shared. Common symptoms include yearning or longing for the deceased, difficulty accepting or adapting to the loss, self-blame, avoidance of reminders of the deceased, and preoccupation with the circumstances of the death.
Simon NM. Increasing Support for the Treatment of Complicated Grief in Adults of All Ages. JAMA. 2015;313(21):2172–2173. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.105
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