Warning Signs of Unresolved Grief

Updated April 17, 2017

Unresolved grief is a situation where the grieving process has become interrupted, causing great emotional distress. In some cases, unresolved grief can lead to severe problems for a person's mental well-being and can actually cause physical health complications. If you see one or more of the following warning signs from a person who has recently suffered a loss, you should help them to seek a professional mental health evaluation as soon as possible.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a potential warning sign of unresolved grief, especially if the abuse began after a person has suffered a loss. Substance abuse can include any controlled substance, such as alcohol, illegal drugs and even prescription medication. A person abusing controlled substances can do a great deal of damage to their body as well as unintentionally harm others while in inebriated states. If you suspect a person in mourning is abusing controlled substances, you should contact a mental health professional or community health centre.

Severe Depression

Depression is commonly associated with loss, but it can become severe if a person has unresolved grief. Signs of severe depression include feelings of intense sadness, feelings of unwarranted guilt, feelings of self-doubt, uncontrollable fears and worries, difficulty concentrating and loss of energy. People with severe depression also may express suicidal thoughts, which is a red flag for you to help them seek professional attention. Rage and anger issues also are a sign of severe depression and can lead a person to harm others or themselves.

Somatic Symptoms

Somatic symptoms are physical warning signs of unresolved grieving. This can include physical changes such as an increase or decrease in appetite or sleep. Digestion issues and an upset stomach also can be the result of unresolved grief. Somatic symptoms, such as a feeling of choking, heaviness in the chest, panic attacks and hyperventilation, can be more severe. A person with unresolved grief may have sympathy pains similar to the person they are mourning.

Absent or Excess Mourning

People who have suffered a loss and have not properly grieved or refuse to do so may be displaying warning signs of unresolved grief. This is especially true if they have any other symptom of unresolved grief, such as substance abuse issues. On the other hand, excessive mourning also can be a sign of unresolved grief. This is categorised as intense grieving that lasts for several months or more than a year. Excess grieving also can include searching for the presence of the person that was lost.

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About the Author

K.C. Moore has been writing professionally since 2008. He has contributed to "Eye on Life," Kingdom Hearts Ultimania and several online publications. Moore has also worked professionally as a game adviser for Blockbuster Video since 2004. Moore is a graduate of Central Michigan University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in English with a concentration in creative writing.