Grief over the loss of a person due to death or the end of a relationship can take many forms.  Intrusive, recurring thoughts centering around or dominated by the loss often cause the grieving person to experience poor concentration, sudden or prolonged tearful spells, and confusion about the future. In a sense, the individual's future is temporarily "lost" after the experience of a significant loss. Individuals who must live through significant losses at any moment in their life (i.e., deaths, major illness, debilitating accidents, divorces, jobs) almost invariably experience severe depression and discouragement, and exhibit strong, uncharacteristic emotional responses that can be cause of concern. Among these strong emotional or psycho-somatic responses there can be a diminished appetite, weight loss, insomnia, despair, loss of self-esteem and moments of suicidal ideation.  In many cases, the feelings of guilt that not enough was done to prevent the loss from occurring, or an unreasonable belief of having contributed to the loss can become quite overwhelming. Among the most frequent coping strategies that may be instinctively adopted are the avoidance of talking on anything more than a superficial level about the loss, or refusing to talk about it at all. This is a rather primitive defense mechanism and can serve a useful purpose, at least briefly. Eventually, if the severe grief does not resolve itself into a painful but bearable acceptance of the loss within a few weeks, or at most a three or four months (depending on the severity of the loss), the grief becomes more problematic (Complicated Grief) and requires professional help.

Get Help With Grief and Loss

To make an appointment with Dr. Z, call (678) 554-5632 or fill out the online appointment request. We can go over your current situation, identify the ways in which the lingering effects of grief and loss are affecting your life and that of your loved ones, or how your grief does not seem to resolve itself as you believe it should. We will put some dimensions to the problem, and identify your current resources that may be applied toward meaningful and lasting change. If additional resources and skills are needed, we will treat your severe symptoms and help you feel calmer and increase your ability to choose the most appropriate response to each situation. Treating complicated grief is feasible, it's proven to be effective, and has helped many people who had a variety of different symptoms and challenges. Call and make your appointment today and we can get started!

When grief becomes complicated

In general, Complicated Grief can be successfully treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques that target the loss-related processes and focus on symptoms of painful intrusive memories and seek to integrate the behavioral avoidance. Additionally, the treatment focuses on the restoration of normal functioning by helping the grieving person re-establish relationships and connection with valued life goals.

CBT can be flexibly applied to all types of grief, however in the treatment of Complicated Grief the most effective protocol shown in research studies to produce the best results consists of 16 sessions, each approximately 45-50 minutes in length. Each session is structured, with an agenda that includes reviewing the previous week's activities, doing work in session, and assigning tasks for the following session.

The treatment is typically divided into three phases:

  1. In phase one, i.e. during the first three sessions, the primary goals are to establish a strong therapeutic alliance, obtain a history of the client's interpersonal relationships, provide psychoeducation about the model of complicated grief, and describe the elements of treatment. A supportive person (family member, close friend) is invited to attend the third session.
  2. In phase two, i.e. sessions 4 to 9, the client is asked to complete a number of exercises inside and outside of the session that help with the loss and address restoration of the capacity for joy and satisfaction in life.
  3. In phase three, i.e. sessions 10 to 16, the therapist and the client review progress and collaboratively decide how to use the remaining sessions to complete the work and consolidate treatment gains.

Is grief a problem for you?


It is important to ascertain if grief is a problem that cannot be safely ignored. The following questionnaire is designed to help you focus on and identify serious symptoms of complicated grief that you may have experienced  in the recent past or that you may still be experiencing. After you complete the questionnaire and submit it, the results (point score) will be displayed on your screen. Depending on your questionnaire results, please consider grief counseling to help reduce the severity of the symptoms and work toward their complete management. Please make sure to fill in your contact information if you wish to make an appointment with Dr. Z, either by providing your name, email and phone number on the questionnaire and indicating in the comments that you wish to schedule an appointment, or by filling out the online appointment request form.

To purchase this test, please click on the button. You will be able to use your credit card or PayPal account to complete this purchase.

Free to clients