By  Alan  M. Solomon, Ph.D.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our experience of grief. Many people are struggling with grief that goes on for more extended periods of time due to the huge numbers of death, the loss of social support for those dying and their family members as people die in isolation and funeral practices are restricted, and the loss of support usually offered through counseling services that are less available. Prolonged Grief Disorder is a new diagnostic category being recognized by the American Psychiatric Association ( https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2788766 ).

Grief is prolonged when someone’s distress continues beyond 12 months with “intense longing for the deceased person and/or preoccupation with thoughts and memories of the deceased person” to the extent that someone’s daily life is impacted significantly nearly everyday for at least the past month. More specifically, at least 3 of the following 8 difficulties significantly impact someone daily:

  • “Feeling as though a part of oneself has died,
  • A marked sense of disbelief about the death,
  • Avoidance of reminders that the person has died,
  • Intense emotional pain (anger, bitterness, sorrow) related to the death,
  • Difficulty with reintegration into life after the death,
  • Emotional numbness (particularly with respect to an emotional connection to others),
  • Feeling that life is meaningless as a result of the death, and
  • Intense loneliness as a result of the death.”

An individual’s social, cultural, and religious norms must be considered as well. For example, in some religious and cultural groups, a full year of formal grief is expected, and even supported by rituals of various sorts. And, there are no other major issues, such as major depression, substance abuse, or another medical condition.

Part Two of this blog will include a screening questionnaire for Prolonged Grief Disorder, as well as possible therapy suggestions.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the  Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310  539-2772 or dralanms@gmail.com Telehealth or in-person sessions are available.

Copyright 2022 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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