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Unresolved Grief/Loss


  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood

  • Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct

  • Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood


  • Begin a healthy grieving process around the loss.

  • Develop an awareness of how the avoidance of grieving has affected life and begin the healing process.

  • Complete the process of letting go of the lost significant other.

  • Resolve the loss and begin renewing old relationships and initiating new contacts with others.

Behavioral Definitions

  • Thoughts dominated by loss coupled with poor concentration, tearful spells, and confusion about the future.

  • Serial losses in life (i.e., deaths, divorces, jobs) that led to depression and discouragement.

  • Strong emotional response exhibited when losses are discussed.

  • Lack of appetite, weight loss, and/or insomnia as well as other depression signs that occurred since the loss.

  • Feelings of guilt that not enough was done for the lost significant other, or an unreasonable belief of having contributed to the death of the significant other.

  • Avoidance of talking on anything more than a superficial level about the loss.

  • Loss of a positive support network due to a geographic move.


  • Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode

  • Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent

  • Bereavement

  • Adjustment Disorder With Depressed Mood

  • Adjustment Disorder With Disturbance of Conduct

  • Dysthymic Disorder

What is Unresolved Grief? 

Unresolved grief refers to a type of grief that persists beyond what is considered a normal or expected period of time, and can become a chronic and debilitating condition. It occurs when a person is unable to fully process and come to terms with their feelings of loss, leading to persistent distress and emotional pain.

There are many factors that can contribute to unresolved grief, including:

Complicated or traumatic losses: Grief may become complicated or traumatic when a person experiences a sudden or unexpected loss, or when the loss is accompanied by additional challenges such as guilt, blame, or unresolved conflicts.

Lack of support: Grieving can be a difficult and isolating experience, particularly when a person lacks support or social connection. Without adequate support, grief can become overwhelming and lead to unresolved feelings of sadness, anger, or guilt.

Unresolved emotions: Sometimes, a person may struggle to process and come to terms with their emotions surrounding a loss. This can lead to a persistent sense of emotional pain and distress.

Unresolved practical issues: In some cases, unresolved grief may be related to practical issues such as legal or financial matters that were not resolved after the loss.

Unresolved grief can have a significant impact on a person's mental health and overall well-being, leading to symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It is important for individuals experiencing unresolved grief to seek help from a mental health professional, who can provide support, guidance, and interventions to help them work through their feelings and achieve a sense of closure and healing. 

Effects of Unresolved Grief

Here are some of the common effects of unresolved grief:

Emotional pain: This can include intense sadness, anger, guilt, or loneliness. You may feel numb or disconnected from your emotions.

Difficulty accepting the loss: You may not believe that the person is gone, or you may bargain with God or fate to bring them back.

Preoccupation with the person who died: You may constantly think about the person or the circumstances of their death.

Withdrawal from social activities: You may lose interest in things you used to enjoy and withdraw from friends and family.

Physical health problems: Unresolved grief can take a toll on your physical health, leading to problems like sleep problems, changes in appetite, and weakened immune system.

Mental health problems: You may be at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Substance abuse: Some people may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the pain of unresolved grief.

If you think you may be experiencing unresolved grief, it's important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you work through your grief and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

How does Unresolved Grief affect your life?

Unresolved grief, also called complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder, can have a significant impact on a person's well-being. Here's how it can manifest:

Emotionally: Unrelenting sadness, anger, guilt, or loneliness. You might feel emotionally numb or disconnected.

Mentally: Difficulty accepting the loss, possibly even denial or bargaining with a higher power to bring the person back. Preoccupation with the deceased and the circumstances surrounding their death.

Socially: Withdrawing from social activities and loved ones, losing interest in things you used to enjoy.

Physically: Sleep problems, changes in appetite, weakened immune system, and other health issues. Unresolved grief can take a toll on your overall physical health.

Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues: Unresolved grief can make you more susceptible to depression, anxiety, or even PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Substance Abuse: Some people might use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism to manage the pain of unresolved grief.

If you suspect you might be experiencing unresolved grief, reaching out for professional help is important. A therapist can create a safe space for you to work through your grief and develop healthy ways to cope with the loss.

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