When is grief abnormal?

When is your grief crippling?  What’s normal and what’s not?

If you are at the beginning, it’s crippling. Period. You can barely get out of bed and function and you feel like you are in a fog. That’s normal.

What if you still visit your child’s grave 30 years after she died? Or you still talk to your child and cry about the loss decades later? Your brain still foggy after a year? All normal.

What if soon after, you get angry and want to throw things? Anger is a natural part of grief. So that’s not unusual.

Grief is learning to live without the one you love. And over time, adapting to that loss. After a while the waves of agony are shorter in intensity and in length. How long this takes depends on the person.

So when is it not normal?

When your feelings of loss are debilitating and don’t improve even after time passes. Meaning that you can’t find any joy in anything a year after the death. When you feel like you don’t matter and your life is not worth living.

About one third of parents who lose a child feel suicidal. While that’s not uncommon, it’s not a normal stage of grief. And you need to ask for help right away.

An inability to accept the death a year later would be a cause of concern. Focusing on the loss 24/7 to the point you can think of nothing else. Not allowing yourself to experience the pain of loss. Or not crying at all–denying yourself the opportunity to grieve. Drinking or taking a substance to numb the pain continuously would be a troubling sign.

The way out of complicated grief is support. You might need a therapist and even medication to help you through a difficult period. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend or spouse to help you find that help. You will survive. You will get through this. And you are not meant to do this alone.

The rule of thumb is to contact a medical or mental health professional if you have problems functioning that don’t improve at least one year after the death of your loved one.


Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

3 thoughts on “When is grief abnormal?”

  1. Correction. 28 months.2 yrs 4 mths. Duh. A lifetime away or a second ago. Time becomes warped. Interesting point on did we think about them every day when they were alive.

  2. After 54 months I’m at about 4 x 7 x 365 with a smattering of short PTS-like outbreaks. Had one last two days with fatigue and depressive staring (leaned into it) that culminated into crying on my wife’s shoulder in parking lot on way out from restaurant. That ended it. I anticipate I will think about him every day until my eyes stop working. But I’m a survivor. Living in quiet desperation. Would be interesting to see a survey of your tribe as to where parents are in their daily pain journey. Like when the doc asks from 1 to 10 where are you.

    1. That would be an interesting post, David. I think I’ll do that. Thanks for the idea. And you let it out. That’s good. I know now I will think about Charles every day. I wonder, did I think about him every single day when he was alive? I assume so but I don’t remember.

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