Up to 7,000 people in Ireland can suffer each year from ‘Complicated Grief’ according to the Irish Hospice Foundation.
This health condition
can last for years or even decades after a death.
“In complicated grief, people experience intense yearning and
experience little joy or satisfaction in their lives. The loss impacts
on every area of their lives,” according to Dr Susan Delaney, one of
the doctors involved in the programme.
She told CatholicIreland.net that people suffering from complicated grief will often themselves realise that they have a problem.
“Sometimes concerned people can point to difficulties but many times
the person themselves will say ‘I just am not improving, I’m not getting
over it, I feel worse now.’”
According to Dr Delaney, grief is different for each person, but most
people are back to their previous level of functioning after two years.
“The majority of people will report that 6 months after the death,
they feel they have moved on in their grief while still missing the
person,” she added.
Yesterday IHF, the charity which promotes and supports the
development of hospice and palliative care, announced a new Complicated
Grief Programme for Ireland to support bereaved people who have become
overwhelmed by their grief.
About 290,000 people are bereaved in Ireland every year, and between
3,500 and 7,000 people are at risk of developing complicated grief.
For most people, grief becomes more manageable with time and people
find their own way through it with the support of family and friends,
Caroline Lynch from IHF said. “In complicated grief, the natural
grieving process is derailed.”
Complicated grief is now recognised as a mental health issue and has
been included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and
Research has indicated that a treatment approach, such as that
developed by American bereavement expert, Dr Kathy Shear, is effective
in helping people come to terms with a difficult reality and facilitates
a return to a good level of functioning.
Dr Shear, who came to Ireland to launch the programme and is
currently conducting a workshop for 30 Irish practitioners on how to
implement the treatment for complicated grief that she has pioneered, is
Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University School of Social Work in
She is also a consultant to national and international groups working in bereavement and grief.
According to Dr Susan Delaney, people can recover from complicated grief.
“Although we are forever changed by bereavement, it is possible to
return to a good level of functioning when the person is remembered with
love rather than pain and where the bereaved person again finds purpose
and contentment in their life. The grief is back on track.”
Dr Shear’s treatment protocol is 16 weeks and according to Dr
Delaney, most people will report significant improvement in their
symptoms in this time.
“We are treating the complication of grief and getting the natural
healing process activated so that the grief that was acute becomes
integrated in their life.”
Work in the area of bereavement is a core activity for the Irish
Hospice Foundation which has established a national education and
resource centre from which it provides a comprehensive range of
education and training programmes as well as resources on bereavement.