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Module 4When our love is not enough

What can clergy and church members do?

1. Recognizing the Need

Complicated Grief. Clergy and other church members can play an important role in making sure that families get the bereavement support they need. If families tell you that they feel that they cannot cope and need more help, of course, you know to make a referral. Being on the lookout for signs that more help is needed is another important way to support families.

Bereavement support and mental health professionals have identified signs and symptoms of what is called complicated grief. This kind of grief is different from normal grief and bereavement reactions. At first, many of the signs and symptoms are the same as normal grief; however, in normal grief these symptoms gradually fade. In complicated grief they linger and even get worse. While there is no time table for grief and mourning, checking in with members of the church who have experienced a loss to see if they are experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms after the first month or two of intense mourning is a way to make sure that families get all the bereavement support they need.

  • Extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one
  • Intense longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Preoccupation with your sorrow
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Depression or deep sadness
  • Difficulty moving on with life
  • Trouble carrying out normal routines
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Lack of trust in others

[Cited with permission from Mayo Clinic, downloaded 12/1/2009]

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