Bereavement Counseling

A Look Into Complicated Grief and Noticing The Signs For Help

Grief is a natural response to loss. While it is a universal experience, every personal experience can differ. While conventionally grief is an emotional response, extreme cases can have physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual, and philosophical responses. The continuing, heightened state of mourning is identified as complicated grief. Individuals experiencing complicated grief, should seek help to be able to heal and move on from loss.

Close up of a sad person leaning & clutching hands with another person comforting them

The Signs of Complicated Grief

As the saying goes, time heals all wounds. Some people can find themselves healing from grief in a relatively short period of time, being able to move on, can continue to day-to-day activities and carry out social interactions. For other people, grief can leave them stuck in the same spot while life moves on around them. There are several signs to look out for if you or someone you know is having trouble dealing with grief.

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Constant crying
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Panic Attacks
  • Blaming oneself for a loved one’s death
  • Loss of passion for hobbies/activities
  • Constantly keeping yourself busy to avoid facing your emotions
  • You/someone you love are experiencing unexplained illnesses
  • You/someone you love have experienced multiple losses in a short period of time
  • Intense longing for passed loved one
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach aches
  • Frequently visiting familiar places in hopes of seeing a loved one or avoiding familiar places entirely to avoid triggering memories
  • Substance abuse/addictive behavior (alcohol, drugs, gambling)
  • Avoiding social interaction, even with close friends and family
  • Suffering unexplained illnesses
  • Hallucinations/voices
  • Numbness to emotions
  • Fear of forming new relationships entirely
  • Unable to perform self-care
  • You/others expressed worry for well-being
  • Denial that a loved one has passed away
  • You/someone you love lacks support

The Different Grief Models

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the Five Stages of Grief:

Denial – a defense mechanism that helps the brain not only numb the intense emotions that come with grief but gives individuals more time to overcome these same emotions. Moving out of the denial stage will cause suppressed emotions to arise, which can be quite difficult for people to face.

Anger – this stage is considering a masking effect that hides the other emotions and pain one carries with grief. This anger can be directed at other people or inanimate objects. Not everyone experiences the anger phase, while others tend to linger here. When the anger subsides, the rational part of your brain begins to process what is happening.

Bargaining – while feeling vulnerable, helpless, and experiencing intense emotions, it is normal for people to try to regain control by creating “what if” and “if only” scenarios.

Depression – this is considered the “quiet” stage of grief. Some may find themselves lost in their emotions while others embrace them and work through them in healthy manners. Depression is not a well-defined mental state; it can be messy, vary from person to person, and leave individuals overwhelmed and confused.

Acceptance – though this stage may seem like the silver lining, acceptance is not necessarily a happy experience. Though individuals may have not moved past the loss entirely, they have come to accept and understand how life is now. Continuing moving forward will bring good and bad days, but acceptance can help start the healing process.

The Dual Process Model of grief was created by Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut in 1995. This model breaks down the process of grief into loss-oriented activities and restoration-oriented activities. It is believed that during the grieving process, individuals will switch between both activities until they have accepted or “moved on” from the loss.

Loss-oriented activities are stressors related directly to death which include crying, yearning, sadness, denial, anger, dwelling on death and avoiding restoration activities.

Restoration-oriented activities are stressors that actively distract you from grief. This could include adapting to a new role, developing new ways of connecting with loved ones, working, cleaning, tending to everyday chores, exercise and even cultivating a new way of life.

In-Person vs Online Counseling

When an individual decides to get help with their grief, there are in-person and online options to help best suit the person mourning and their lifestyle.

Circle of people sitting together holding hands

In-Person Counseling allows one-on-one time with a counselor where individuals talk about their feelings of grief then the counselor will suggest healthy coping mechanisms. Another option for in-person counseling is a grief support group. These groups, usually run by a trained facilitator, offer a safe place to work through your emotions with people who share similar experiences.

Online Counseling has a wide range of options for dealing with grief. If an individual has limited time or mobility, they can get access to online support forums that offer help and information from home and do not always require interaction. One-on-one grief counseling can take place over the phone, FaceTime, Skype, or similar applications for people in rural areas, who have limited health resources, or social anxieties. There are also online grief support groups if an individual wants more structure than a forum. Typically, you can join a group session in real time or view a recording later.

Moving on From Mourning

If you or someone you know are experiencing the signs of complicated grief and are ready to receive help, Research For Life has resources to connect people with Bereavement Counseling. Sometimes grieving can feel endless, regardless of if an individual was prepared for loss or not, but it does not need to stay that way. In addition to receiving counseling, it is important to take care of oneself by facing/expressing feelings, maintaining interests, not letting people dictate how one grieves, and looking after one’s physical health. With the right help, moving on, healing and acceptance is possible for all.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.