Losing a loved one is one of the most distressing and, unfortunately, common experiences people face. Most people experiencing normal grief and bereavement have a period of sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Gradually these feelings ease, and it's possible to accept loss and move forward.
For some people, feelings of loss are debilitating and don't improve even after time passes. This is known as complicated grief, sometimes called persistent complex bereavement disorder. In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the loss and resuming your own life.
Different people follow different paths through the grieving experience. The order and timing of these phases may vary from person to person: Accepting the reality of your loss, allowing yourself to experience the pain of your loss adjusting to a new reality in which the deceased is no longer present, having other relationships.
These differences are normal. But if you're unable to move through one or more of these stages after a considerable amount of time, you may have complicated grief. If so, seek treatment. It can help you come to terms with your loss and reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.
The best estimate for the prevalence rate of complicated grief is about 7% of people who have ever lost someone they consider important and about 60% of the overall population reports having had such a loss. This means that more than 10 million people are likely suffering from complicated grief in the United States alone. Some people are more at risk for CG than others. Risk may be related to characteristics of the person, the circumstances of the death or things that happen after the death. It is worth remembering that anyone can develop complicated grief and that most people are resilient.