NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Coping With Complicated Grief and Unresolved Mourning

Complicated grief and unresolved mourning often occurs when there is a delay in the mourning process. If unresolved mourning persists, over time, it can result in major depression, anxiety or posttraumatic disorder (PTSD). Complicated grief can occur for many reasons.

Coping With Complicated Grief and Unresolved Mourning

The vignette below, which I'm providing with permission from a friend (changing her name to protect her privacy) illustrates how unresolved mourning can lead to further emotional complications over time:

When Mary was nine years old, her father died from a sudden heart attack.  Due to the suddenness of her father's death, Mary's mother went into shock and she was physically and emotionally unavailable for Mary.  Mary, who was very close to her father was left to deal with her own overwhelming grief on her own.  Most of the family was focused on helping Mary's mother through the emotional ordeal.

Coping With Complicated Grief and Unresolved Mourning

To complicate matters, Mary, who was a quiet girl, appeared to be handling the loss relatively well.  What the family didn't understand was that Mary was emotionally dissociated because her father's death was too overwhelming for her.  What appeared to be Mary's calm demeanor was, in fact, a dissociation.  Since she had no one to comfort her, Mary retreated into herself emotionally, and no one could see what was happening to her.

Over the years, Mary had frequent dreams where her father would appear to her and tell her that he wasn't dead.  These recurring dreams usually took a familiar form where Mary would turn around and then when she turned back, her father was gone.  She continued to have these dreams throughout her adulthood. The result was that Mary's internal experience of her father went into a netherworld where she felt she was continually waiting to wake up and discover that her father's death was all a dream.

Over the years, Mary's internal experience of her father became as shadowy and ghost-like as her dreams.  At times, even though she knew rationally that he had lived and she had wonderful memories of their times together, a part of her felt felt like he had never existed.  This was a very confusing experience, and it made her feel like she was losing her mind.

After many failed attempts to have romantic relationships with men, she decided to see a psychotherapist to try to understand her experiences.

It was at that point that she learned that she had PTSD stemming from her complicated grief and unresolved mourning.  As she began to integrate her experiences related to father's death, she was able to finally mourn her loss. She also integrated her memories, both positive and negative, so that her experience of her father coalesced, rather than being stuck in a dissociated netherworld.

Prior to going to therapy, Mary feared dealing with her unresolved grief.  She feared that she would be overwhelmed with sorrow.

But once she began therapy, she realized that dealing with her grief, although sad, was a healing experience.  It also helped her to be able to sustain a romantic relationship with the man she eventually  married.  She was no longer afraid to open herself up to a loving relationship.

Getting Help in Therapy:
As a psychotherapist in NYC, I have helped many clients to overcome the effects of complicated grief and unresolved mourning.

If you are someone who is having difficulty mourning the loss of a loved one, you owe to yourself and those who are close to you to get help.

Getting Help in Therapy

Mourning isn't easy, but living with the constant  pain of loss that feels like it will never end, usually leads to even deeper emotional pain.

Healing is possible with an experienced psychotherapist who has expertise in complicated grief and unresolved mourning.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I work dynamically with clients in a supportive environment.  I am also certified in mind-body oriented psychotherapy, which includes clinical hypnosis,  Somatic Experiencing, and EMDR.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up  consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.