Chapter 2: Understanding prolonged grief

Recognizing prolonged grief

I felt that I had to hide everything and that nothing about me was right: I didn’t make right decisions, I was doing poorly in school. I felt like such a deep failure.

Below are some other factors to help you recognize and help you distinguish between grief and what may be viewed as a prolonged grief experience. Click each of the switch buttons to see the differences.

GriefProlonged grief

Your intense thoughts and feelings about the death and the person who died gradually lessen.

Your interest and commitment to hobbies, work, and relationships remain, return, or increase giving you a renewed sense of purpose or meaning.

Your grief is persistent and pervasive, causing severe emotional distress. The intensity of your grief does not lessen over time; and you have difficulty managing your emotions.

You cannot see a future for yourself that holds any potential for joy, meaning, or purpose. You feel a sense of meaninglessness.

GriefProlonged grief

You begin to feel less disconnected or isolated from others.

You accept the reality of the death while finding ways to form a new bond or relationship with the person who died.

You have significant problems engaging in important areas of your life, such as family, social relationships, and work.

You continue to experience an intense and deep longing for the person who died or preoccupation with the events of their death.

GriefProlonged grief

Your grief does not go away but is no longer the central focus of your life.

You slowly return to previous routines and activities you had lost interest in. 

You think constantly about your loss but also try to avoid any reminders of it.

You feel “stuck” and unable to resume your routines and activities.  You have difficulty engaging in ongoing life.

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