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 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.
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.