Bereavement is the normal period of grief after a loss, such as a death, miscarriage or stillbirth.
Complicated grief is a disorder that occurs when you're not able to move through the normal stages of grief. If you're not able to accept the loss more than a year later, you may have complicated grief.
When to Get Help for Bereavement or Complicated Grief
Everyone needs support after losing a loved one or a pregnancy. This support can come in many forms, including friends, family, support groups and treatment from a health care provider.
Less than a year after the loss
Whether you want help from a health care provider right after the loss is a personal decision. Some people find it helps, while others prefer to seek support through friends, family or support groups.
A year or more after the loss
If you continue to experience the following for a year or more, you may have complicated grief disorder:
- Difficulty accepting the loss
- Difficulty working through the emotional and physical pain
- Difficulty adjusting to living in the present
- Difficulty moving on with your life
Having these symptoms is a sign that you should see a health care provider, if you haven't already. Psychotherapy may improve the symptoms of complicated grief disorder.
How to Get Help at Rush for Bereavement or Complicated Grief
- If you've had a miscarriage or stillbirth: Make an appointment with an expert on the Rush women's behavioral and mental health team. The team has special training in helping women cope with reproductive trauma.
- If you've lost a loved one: Making an appointment with a primary care provider at Rush is often a good place to start. Your primary care provider can refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist as necessary. If you'd like to make an appointment directly with a psychologist or psychiatrist, you can call (312) 942-5375. (Psychologists at Rush focus on providing psychotherapy. Psychiatrists at Rush can prescribe medications and other medical treatments.)
Bereavement and Complicated Grief Treatment at Rush
Psychotherapy is the most common treatment for people coping with loss. But medications, such as antidepressants, can help if you have depression along with complicated grief.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely used form of psychotherapy (talk therapy). Research has shown that it's an effective treatment for many mental health disorders.
CBT is based on the idea that your behavior, thoughts and feelings are closely connected. So your therapist may suggest ways to change your feelings or behavior by changing your thought patterns, or vice versa.
Psychologists at Rush offer several types of CBT.
Antidepressants can help if you have depression symptoms after your loss, especially if those symptoms last a year or more.
There are many kinds of antidepressant medication. The right one for you depends on your specific symptoms and body chemistry. Psychiatrists at Rush can help you find the medications and dosages that work for you.
Rush Excellence in Bereavement and Complicated Grief Care
- Help with working through pregnancy loss: The Rush women's behavioral and mental health care team specializes in helping people work through miscarriage, stillbirth and infertility. The team welcomes cisgender, transgender and nonbinary patients.
- Specialists in adjusting to loss: The psychiatry and psychology team at Rush includes specialists in rehabilitation psychology. They're experts at helping people adjust to chronic pain, illness, disability and other forms of loss.
- However much support you need: Some people do well with only a few sessions of therapy. Some people need several months of weekly sessions. We're happy to work with you for however many — or however few — sessions you need. And if you hit a rough patch after therapy is over, you can come in for "booster" sessions. These are a handful of sessions (typically one to three) that help you get back on track.
- A team approach: At Rush, psychologists (who focus on providing psychotherapy) work closely with psychiatrists (who can prescribe medications). If your therapist thinks you may benefit from medication, they'll refer to you to a trusted psychiatrist.