I have witnessed complicated grief throughout my career. My own mother’s recent death gave me a greater appreciation for it. Uncomplicated grief flows naturally from loss where there are no mixed feelings. Grief can be complicated by the involvement of others. Loss of a loved one through murder is invariably complicated with anger and helplessness. In my case, as is true for many, my grief is complicated by relief that her suffering is over and that my caregiving duties are done.
The healing from complicated grief involves sorting through all the conflicting thoughts and emotions. Anyone who has cared for someone through the failure of their body and finally their mind knows the difficulty of guilt at never having been able to do enough for someone who no longer knew how to be gracious about the sacrifices the caregiver made.
In the days following my mother’s death, my feeling were beyond speaking. People would call and offer to talk about it and I could not. I made a little speech for people who asked to say she had died peacefully at home. That much was true. I was with her as she lapsed into unconsciousness, having used her last lucid moments to tell me she did not want to go to the hospital. While I had talked her into going many times before, this time was different. She was not sick. She was just dying. We had been to the emergency room a few days before and sent home knowing there was nothing more they could do.
Therapy is helpful for complicated grief because it allows a safe space to talk through all the feelings, the anger, the hopelessness, the sadness, the relief and the guilt and finally put them in their place.