How to live your life with “complicated grief”

Complicated Grief Syndrome is a proposed disorder for those who’s lives are significantly affected by grief following a period of at least 6 months of bereavement. Complicated Grief as it stands today is not a diagnosable condition but it is considered any grief lasting longer than a year. This doesn’t mean you occasionally feel sad or miss the person who is gone but that there is significant distress in your everyday life because of it.

When I was 16 years old my older brother died from a severe asthma attack. I didn’t deal with it at the time, actually I never really faced it until a few years later. Sure I cried a bit that initial week but not really a lot. I was in denial for a long time, convinced I was dreaming and that it wasn’t real, when I did realize he was actually gone I saw how broken my parents were and I didn’t want to be like that so I wasn’t.  The next year I graduated from high school and although prom & graduation were difficult for me without him there I still felt I was dealing okay.

When it hit me that I was not actually okay was when I stopped remembering the sound of his voice. See during the periods where I was “fine” I actually wasn’t. During waking moments I was doing my regular thing, spending time with my friends & my boyfriend (who is now my husband), going out, doing what teenagers do but at night that’s when things got bad. I began hallucinating  him within a week of his death, almost nightly. It wasn’t dreams those would have been alright but it was straight out hallucinations (which I now know are possible with severe depression) . We would have conversations, i’d talk to him and he’d talk back and it would hold me over until the next night when everyone else was in bed and we’d chat again. As time went on the hallucinations decreased but they were still occuring on about a weekly-biweekly basis. Then one night I saw him and I was talking and feeling great because I guess I had convinced myself that it was okay that I was talking to a figment of my imagination because it helped me feel better so how can that be a bad thing. I then realized he wasn’t talking back. In that exact moment I realized I didn’t remember the sound of his voice. At this point I would have been about 20, living in a new town, in my own apartment with my husband (boyfriend at the time) & going to university. The next morning I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I forced myself to though and things seemed to be alright, I started taking things day by day and somedays just getting out of bed was an accomplishment.

I started going to see a psychologist that year who informed me that since it had been 5 years since he had died that I was suffering from complicated grief , I was also diagnosed with chronic depression and severe panic disorder. It was recommended that I go on antidepressants but I refused. It took me 3 years to agree. January 10th of 2011 was the hardest yet for me, I was not home anymore I was two hours away from my home and my parents and it just sucked. I was almost 21 at that point and had officially outlived him which just boggled my mind. Sometimes my mom says she can’t believe how long it’s been, that’s not an issue for me, my issue is the age. When my brother died he was 20 (a day short of 20 1/2 to be specific) but to me he was so much older. Even now I think back and it doesn’t seem possible to me that he was 20  years old that I’m now almost 7 years older than he was.

Today is the 10th anniversary of that morning. The morning that changed my life forever. The morning that I went from being just a 16 year old girl to the depressed, anxious girl with complicated grief.

So how do I do it? How do I live day by day with something that i’m sure after 10 years is not gong anywhere?

I accept it’s who I am now. For years I tried to hide everything I felt, I tried to be strong for my parents, I tried not to be a burden to my husband and my friends. Then one day I just decided these people love me, they’ll accept me regardless of my flaws and that it is okay.

Take Care of Myself. Self care is very important, so much so that I have a whole category on here dedicated to it. 5 reasons self care is crucial

Allow myself to be sad. Let it out. Crying is actually quite beneficial. Sometimes I will actually put on a song or movie that makes me think of Jordan so that I can have a good cry (which is often followed by a good sleep)

Prepare for the bad days. Some days are worse than others. Major life events (my graduations, my wedding etc.) the anniversary the day he died, his birthday etc. I know this and I make sure I have a lot of me time.

Talk to people. Go to support groups, get counselling, talk to friends & family.

Some days are better than others and I have learned to cherish them, some days are rough and I make it through and some days I feel like I’m drowning and I allow myself the time to feel like crap. Somedays I can get up and go about my life like everyone else, somedays it’s harder and I have to push myself and somedays I just stay in my PJs, lay on my couch and wallow in the waves. I know now what I need and when I need it. I know when to soldier on and when to just take a day to grieve my loss. Not just the loss of my brother but the loss of my life before the day he died, the loss of my previous identity because I’m not the same personal anymore and I know now that that is okay.

To anyone who is where I am or where I was I just want to tell you that it is okay. Some people may become annoyed with you and those people are the ones who don’t know what it’s like to be stuck and I’m happy for them but there are people who will accept where you are and what you feel and those are the ones you need to surround yourself with. Through all of this I have had some great friends & an incredible husband for whom I am eternally grateful. Those people are the ones who make life liveable.


30 thoughts on “How to live your life with “complicated grief”

  1. robin masshole mommy says:

    It sounds like you have a really good handle on who you are and you know what you need. Thanks for these tips – I am sure they will help lots of people.


  2. Dawn McAlexander says:

    I am very sorry to hear about your brother. It is best to deal with these things head on rather than to bury it deep inside. It’s that way with anything in life, be it a relationship issue or financial difficulties, if you deal with it head on, then you can move on and not look back.


  3. Catherine Murton says:

    Grief is such a complicated thing. I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. I’m glad you are able to live with your grief and have found ways to deal with it in a healthy way. It’s hard when people don’t understand. I hope you continue to do well in 2017 and beyond!


  4. Logan says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your brother! Grief is a very difficult thing. One of my best friends died two years ago and not a day goes by that I do not think about him. I’ve had crazy dreams about him, etc. I can’t imagine losing a close family member. Being aware of your grief and depression will help you start to work through it.


  5. Kiwi says:

    Wow thanks for being candid about your grief. You may never get over it completely and thats ok. I am so sorry for your lose of your brother. I hope you are healing and thank the memories of him can still make you smile from time to time.


  6. lovelysilvia says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your brother. I went through grief for the first time a couple years ago and it was tough. You have some great tips here and how to move through it. Thanks for sharing everything.


  7. meximoments says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I went through something similar at 16. My best friend died in a car accident & I just never really took tike to be mourn. It never left me & I’ve dreaded the anniversary of his death eve year. Ironically my daughter was born on the day of his death anniversary 20 yrs later. Now that day is bitter sweet. But we all health on our own time.


  8. Debra says:

    Wow, I had no idea. I have never lost someone that close to me and what a horrible thing it would be. I am glad things are better now for you but still painful!


  9. Jeanine says:

    Greif is something. I lost my mom at age 16, and then my grandparents a couple years later within a week of each other. It was rough and I’m still dealing with it and these are some great tips!


  10. terricairns says:

    the loss of a loved one is always difficult, Last year I lost both of my grandparents a couple of months apart, and I’m still dealing with the loss, but I know that with time it will lessen


  11. reesann723 says:

    Huge hugs! Life can be really tough and it is so hard to get through the grief some days. I lost my best friend 3 years ago and everyday it’s like it was yesterday.


  12. Carolyn says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I have yet to have someone I am close to die and I stress about it sometimes…like how would I handle it and it freaks me out. Thanks so much for sharing.


  13. almostindianwife says:

    thank you so much for sharing this. I will definitely be sharing this with my friend. They lost their son this year and I never know what to say.


  14. Megan mccoig says:

    I am so sorry to hear that. I was the same with my granddad, it took me a good while to come to terms with it and that’s normal when you’re a teen. It’s so vital to take good care of yourself! X


  15. DebbieJean Lemonte says:

    I thought it was just me. After my dad passed away, the same thing happened. I went through denial and anger. Then I started hallucinating then deep depression. It took me a while to get back to some normalcy but I’m okay.


  16. stylesprinter says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss! I’ve lost a few people throughout my life and it always hurts to think about it…. Those experiences simply change you… And white grief is unavoidable I agree on your suggestion to take care of yourself first during those difficult times…


  17. rosepetalsinthesea says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this! I can easily relate since I have lost loved ones over the years. It’s something that you don’t truly get over, especially when you were very close to that person. ~hugs~ HilLesha


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