Preventing Grief from becoming Complicated Grief


Certain Risk factor have been identified as contributing to Complicated Grief .  Knowing if you are at risk and following preventative measure can help prevent you from grieving in unhealthy manners.

The following risk factors have been identified for developing Complicated Grief:

  • An unexpected or violent death, such as with an accident, murder or suicide
  • Death of a child
  • Close or dependent relationship to the deceased person, such as a spouse
  • Lack of a support system or friendships
  • Past history of depression or other mental health issues
  • Traumatic childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect
  • Lack of resilience or adaptability to life changes
  • Other major life stresses

When my husband and father were tragically killed in a plane crash, I struggled with feelings of intense grief.  I was extremely close and dependent on my husband for financial, emotional and co-parenting support.  I relied on him to make the important decisions in my life.  I also had a past history and a family history of clinical depression.  Furthermore, legal and finical problems added additional stresses to my life.  I knew that I was under risk for developing Complicated Grief.

Because of that I took a very proactive approach to my physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and social components.  Grief will touch every aspect of your life, but it does not need to control it.  The key in remaining healthy is to remain in control of when and how you choose to grieve.  As much as is possible,  we must seek to regain and remain in control of all of the aspects of your life. If we find ourselves spirally out of control, then we need to seek outside help.

Here are some of the self-help coping skills and preventative measures that myself and others have found helpful:

  • Follow the advice of your health care professional. including participating in therapy, keeping appointments and, taking perscribedmedications as directed.
  • Regularly exercise. Being physical active helps to relieve symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. It can also help to redirect negative thoughts.
  • Take proper care of yourself. Get enough rest, follow a healthy diet and take time to relax. Do not attempt to temporarily mask grief with alcohol, illegal drugs, or abuse prescription drugs.
  • Continue to act on your faith. Guidance from a spiritual leader, and following other religious practices such as prayer, scripture study and service can aid in healing and bring comfort.  The Healing section of our website contains more information on this aspect.
  • Practice stress management. Learn how to cope with new stress. Unmanaged stress can lead to a multitude of health problems including depression, overeating, addictions or other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.
  • Socialize. Continue to stay connected with people you enjoy being around. Let them provide support, a listening ear or moments of laughter.
  • Plan ahead for special dates or anniversaries. Holidays, anniversaries and special occasions often are triggers for painful memories and thoughts. As you find new and positive ways to remember your loved, these new practices can provide you and your family comfort and hope. See our Special Days page.
  • Learn new skills. Learning to be self-reliant can elevate a lot of added stress.  After a death new responsibilities must be taken on.  As you learn to master these tasks you will gain confidence that will aid you in moving forward.  Ask for help from family, friends or professionals or take community or online classes to improve your skills.  See our Helping yourself Mentally page
  • Join a support group. Initially for many people, a support group is overwhelming, but after some time local groups or online groups can be helpful.  As we share experiences with others we are able to find help for ourselves and give help to others grieving. This has been a great source of comfort and I have formed lasting relationships in this way.

I found all of these strategies very effective at helping prevent Complicated Grief in my life.  Miraculously, I was able to avoid medication that I had taken several year prior due to depression issues.  The principles shared in our healing section chronicles the things that I learned to help me better deal with my grief.

As I have devoted time and energy to maintaining all aspects of my health, especially the spiritual aspect, I have found healing and the ability to cope in ways that I did not think possible.  The loss of a loved one is devastating, but I have found great hope and growth in the journey.



National Cancer Institute: PDQ® Grief, Bereavement, and Coping With Loss. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified <03/06/2013>. Available at: Accessed <03/25/2015>.

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