Q: My husband died several years ago and I can’t seem to ﬁnd any happiness or peace since. I know these things take time but I am really struggling. What can I do?
A: Several years is a long time to be struggling. Which means you may be suffering from a complicated grief reaction. Complicated grief is essentially the same as a normal grief reaction except exaggerated in length.
Symptoms, aside from length of time, include inability to accept the death, persistent guilt or doubt about why your loved one has died and belief that maybe you or others could have done more to prevent it. Grieving is a process with gradually decreasing symptoms which usually does not last more than two years. That is not to say that sad thoughts do not linger but they will not be as pronounced or incapacitating.
If your relationship with the deceased was complicated in life or if important issues were left unresolved at death, or if there was a good deal of emotional dependency a complicated grief reaction is more likely. Social isolation, suicidal ideation,an increase in anxiety or depression are all characteristic of a complicated grief reaction.
Many who are grieving believe it is wrong to feel happy or get passed the initial stages of grieving. They have become stuck in a faulty belief that it is not ok to move on.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a crucial part of resolving the loss. After prolonged grieving a person should examine their thoughts about their loved one and the reasons why moving on is so hard. Talking with a psychologist, trained in CBT would be an important and possibly essential next step.