Module overview


Life continues to be a struggle; like everyone else, I’m just trying to cope. The grief and loss don't go away, but over time you carry them differently.

This resource has been designed to help you understand and care for yourself as you grieve. It was developed by the Canadian Virtual Hospice in collaboration with national grief specialists and people with lived experience.  We are grateful to those who shared their wisdom and experiences. 

About this resource:  Prolonged grief

Grief is a natural response to a loss. Grief, especially when new, can be intense, overwhelming, and even isolating. It can include strong emotions, frequent thoughts about the loss, and also longing for the person who died. These are natural experiences as part of grieving.

Generally, the intensity of these responses lessen over time, and people find ways to be in the world and live life while holding their grief.

For a small group of people, however, the intensity of grief does not lessen over time and they can become “stuck”. This can then interfere with how they live their daily lives. 

When grief prevents someone from functioning in their daily life over time, it is called “prolonged grief”. Until recently, this “getting stuck in grief” was also referred to as “complicated grief”. It can also be referred to as “persistent complex grief”.

Research about prolonged grief is ongoing and our understanding is still growing. Current research suggests that approximately one in ten people will experience prolonged grief following the death of someone they cared about.

To help you recognize and understand more about prolonged grief, this module:

  • Outlines the differences between grief and prolonged grief
  • Identifies some factors that can put you at risk of developing prolonged grief; and
  • Provides helpful information, including where to seek help, if you think you may be experiencing prolonged grief

Note: After reading this module, if you feel you may be suffering with prolonged grief, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Getting started

We recommend that you review the nine Grief Basics modules found on our site:

As you read through this information…

You might be reading this shortly after the person you care about died, or some time down the road. We encourage you to revisit these resources often as you may only be able to absorb so much at any one time. What you find helpful may change over time. You might recognize your experiences or find that some of them aren’t reflected here. If there is content you believe should be added, please tell us about it in the survey at the end.

As you read this, you may have strong emotions or feel uncomfortable. It’s okay to step away from it for a while, or it might help to talk with a trusted family member or friend. Canadian Virtual Hospice provides online Discussion Forums where you can connect with others who may have experienced similar losses. You can also ask our healthcare team a confidential question at Ask a Professional. You will receive a written response within three business days (not including Canadian statutory holidays).