by Judy Carole

Factors that can complicate bereavement

It is important to be aware of factors than can complicate or prolong the grieving process.

  • Men often find bereavement more difficult to cope with than women, perhaps because they find it harder to communicate their emotions and access the support they need.
  • Previous bereavements can complicate the process, combining into something like a snowball effect.
  • A history of mental illness, such as depression, or anxiety can make someone’s mental state more sensitive.
  • A ‘dependent’ or difficult relationship with the person who has died or mental arguments that continue and cannot be resolved can complicate the grieving process.
  • A sudden or unexpected death, especially the death of a younger person, often causes a more prolonged period of denial.
  • A death involving murder, legal proceedings or any kind of media coverage can prolong grief.
  • The death of a same sex partner or a partner from an extra-marital relationship, where the connection may not be legally recognised or known and accepted by family and friends, causes a grief that cannot be publicly expressed, so crucial help and support may not be forthcoming.

Grief can cause pain that is sometimes so unbearable that people want to numb and escape it through alcohol or medications.

One of the key elements of healthy grieving is – if possible – to allow emotions to surface in order to work through them. In the long run, it is unwise to try to suppress feelings or look for a short cut through grief.

The workplace can become an unwitting negative partner by pressurising the grieving person into taking on a normal workload on their return to work, or expecting them to catch up on their work. In the long run, this is detrimental, both to the individual and the employer. As mentioned previously, bottled-up grief can cause emotional problems or physical illness later on. The natural return to interest and meaning in life that follows is also blocked. It is also important to remember that everyone grieves differently; our grief is as individual as our lives.