I came across an article about including "complicated grief" as a new diagnosis is the DSM manual. But the discussion about including it or not wasn't what fascinated me. This series of paragraphs did:
Bowen says part of the problem is that Americans as a whole simply aren’t comfortable with death. Many try to ignore the fact that it happens. Therefore, when an individual experiences a loss, he or she is often rushed through the grieving process.
“For example, in most corporations, you’re expected to be over the loss and back to work in a very short amount of time,” Bowen says. “Our legal and financial system also make grieving much harder on the individual. In the midst of a death, you have to immediately deal with the Social Security Administration and the Register of Deeds and all sorts of other responsibilities. When you have all of these matters to take care of, you end up putting your emotions in a box and tucking them away instead of dealing with that grief right away. But grief will wait. It doesn’t just go away because you are too busy to attend to it.”
Other cultures, Bowen says, handle grieving much more effectively. They understand the power behind memorializing their loved ones and the fact that grieving is a process. Many Americans typically devote only two or three days to focus on their grieving—maybe a viewing one day and a funeral the next.
“Other cultures and traditions don’t rush things,” Bowen explains. “In the Jewish tradition, there is no headstone placed on the grave until a year later when it’s unveiled in a special ceremony. And at all major holidays, there’s a special candle lit in memorial of the person who has passed. In the Lakota tradition, a year after someone has died, they have a Wiping of the Tears ceremony in which the deceased person is honored. But in the U.S., we don’t do a good job of memorializing. I suggest to clients that a way of grieving without pills is to work on creating a ritual. I’ve had people plant trees or donate money to a playground. It’s a new step in the process, and it often helps.”
(Bowen is Deborah E. Bowen, undergraduate program coordinator and interim associate director of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington who authored A Good Friend for Bad Times: Helping Others Through Grief.)
I also had a discussion the other day about grieving the loss of a child. Although I only know how I feel, it seems like grief for a child lasts alot longer than grief for an adult or other family member. The conclusion we came to was that, as a parent, you aren't just grieving the loss of the child, you are grieving the loss of what that child would have been and all the things that the child won't see or be a part of or experience. It's a bigger process, a bigger understanding, a bigger adjustment.
Does "complicated grief" belong as an official diagnosis? I don't have the answer to that, but I do know that it isn't easy and it lasts forever. And it will show itself in strange and unexpected ways.