Knowing when you need extra support for your grief

There is no 'normal' when it comes to grief. It can manifest itself in a huge number of ways. Sometimes though, grief can become an overpowering force and can impact your mental health. This is sometimes known as ‘prolonged’ or ‘complicated’ grief. It’s important to use your judgement and seek extra help from someone with specialist skills to ensure you’re able to cope.

Depression and grief share similar traits – not wanting to get out of bed, loss of appetite, feeling fatigued, neglecting yourself or feeling as though you can’t carry on. The difference is how chronic and persistent these feelings are.

Usually, when it comes to grief, you are sometimes able to move out of your feelings of intense grief for periods of time. Many people describe it as coming in waves. Your feeling of loss will be woven through your life, but depression is more like an inescapable cloud that shades everything.

If you feel completely incapacitated by your grief, you could be experiencing prolonged grief and it might be time to get some proper support.

Here are some signs to look out for which might suggest that your grief is no longer ‘normal’:

  • Do you look back and relive their death over and over again, focusing on specific details?
  • Do you have a constant need to talk about your child and your feelings?
  • Do you feel angry or irritable most of the time?
  • Do you dwell on why your child had to die or feel constantly guilty?
  • Do you feel compelled to return to the hospital or the hospice where your child was?
  • Do you feel a need to contact the doctors or the team who cared for your child with unanswered questions?
  • Do you feel that you are worthless or have very low self-esteem?
  • Do you rely on alcohol, drugs or self-harm to cope?
  • Do you often think about dying, suicide, hurting yourself or others?
  • Does each day feel like a chore?

If this sounds like you, the first step is to talk to a trusted professional such as your GP. Many parents find that support groups, counselling or complementary therapies help them to cope.

There is also a list of  bereavement support organisations that you may find helpful.

Getting more support

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Ten things parents say about grief

Ten things about grief, from the experiences of a bereaved mum.

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Things bereaved parents will always find hard

Situations that can take you back to your grief, no matter how much time has passed.

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Learning to live without your child

How grief changes over time and the issues it raises in your life.

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