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Breaking: New study legitimizes ‘Complicated Grief,’ treatment effective without meds
When someone close to us dies, we’re all expected to grieve.
For a while anyway. But then we’re expected to get over it.
Putting a timeline on a person’s grieving process is ludicrous. Someone who loses a father they never spent much time with isn’t going to grieve the same as someone who loses their dad after providing direct care to them for many years, and who continued to be their advocate even after they entered a facility – sometimes at the caregiver’s own peril.
In either of the above mentioned scenarios, grieving never is easy. Just different.
New research lends even more validity to a rare condition called complicated grief, which is treatable with Complicated Grief Treatment (CGT). The research, published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, explains how those afflicted with the condition may suffer from extended periods of time with complicated grief and with symptoms that are quite different from depression. The study also shows that the use of antidepressants is not necessary for successful CGT, but does prove beneficial with patients who have a co-occurring depressive disorder.
Certainly, the grieving I have experienced since my father’s death has been complicated.
Since dad died a year ago Sept. 27, I often think about how he saw employees whisk me out the door after I reported an intruder at his facility and began to scream “Call 911!” He could see through the door as police tackled me to the ground, cuffed me tight, threaten to taze me, and then took me to jail—on no charges at all.
There, they stripped me naked and threw me in a cell marked “suicide.” They kept me there for two days after I refused to sign a document saying I was being booked on assault. I also refused to say I was a member of ISIS (yes, they really did ask me that). What else went on in there has been reserved for lawyers, law enforcement, and the mental health professionals who evaluated me.
My dad died a horrible, painful, unthinkable death. He was ravaged by strokes and seizures the final hours of his life and there was nothing doctors could do for him. It’s the course that Pick’s Disease sometimes takes, and it isn’t always peaceful.
Had I not got the state to intervene, I never would have seen my dad again, as the unethical, cold-as-ice memory care facility had trespassed me after the incident.
Ironically, my brother harassed me non-stop (until the cops told him to knock it off) when dad first went into that memory care facility, which I had hand-picked under a stellar referral from someone whose loved one lived there under a prior ownership. But it all went straight to hell when a sudden and mysterious change in ownership followed a settlement being given to one of the employees.
My brother and I have spoken very few words in four years. When I would ask him to please move dad to a new place so I could see him again, he would respond, “He doesn’t even know who you are anymore, David.”
And you can bet, “Rot in hell, John,” came to mind.
I had cared for dad as best I could, alone, for 14 very long years.
‘He had to have lay there all night’ said one CNA
According to testimony from workers on duty the next morning, my dad lay in his room in a pool of blood for several hours one night in mid-April. A massive amount of blood was lost, as he was on a blood thinner, I was told. He finally was found by the nurse coming on to first shift.
When they could not reach my brother for several hours, they broke protocol and called me. I’m the youngest child, and even though I cared for my dad for years, I was not the POA.
I remember dad crying in the ER after I had walked there to meet him (I did not own a car because I had sold it to help pay off bills). His face was covered with blood. “He hit me David. He got me!” He said this in front of the doctor, the social worker, and myself. I reported all of it to the state.
I have been reminded several times in recent weeks that, now that dad is gone, I do not need my brother to pursue litigation against the memory care facility. Clearly the blatant negligence behind him lying in his room all night bleeding to death is staggering in and of itself – a deeper look reveals potentially even more staggering facts from the evidence I have gathered from employees past and present of the memory care facility.
Taunting inside the jail: The story yet to be told
With all of this, I can’t help but wonder: Am I suffering from “complicated grief,” on top of my PTSD diagnosis that stems from a physical assault two years ago that could have left me for dead, then the jail abuse a year later? What went on in there is so obscene I still have not explained all of it, not even to police. And the fuller context in which all of this occurred, which I simply cannot write about at this time, is the cherry atop a delicious story. I call it delicious because, if told, real change will come to this community and far more people than just myself will find justice. There is no denying what happened to me and I’m not the first person it ever has happened to.
Complicated grief is a real thing, and the embargo just lifted this morning on the results from a brand new clinical trial examining the disorder in 395 adults enrolled at academic medical centers in Boston, New York, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
“Complicated grief occurs in about 7 percent of bereaved individuals and it is characterized by persistent maladaptive thoughts, dysfunctional behaviors and poorly regulated emotions that interfere with the ability to adapt to loss,” JAMA Psychiatry reported in a news release. “Co-occurring depressive symptoms are common but complicated grief is clearly differentiated from major depression.”
I don’t suffer from depression. But I remain extremely angry about how the final year of my dad’s life was handled, and how I was treated. Journalists have a tough time letting things go, especially when a ripe and rotten story is unfolding before their very eyes and involving the center of their universe: Their dad.
The frightening reality of the corrupt county I live in
Complicated grief can range in severity, and generally is successfully treated with CGT (talk therapy plus a workbook). The effectiveness appears to be the same even when the patient is not given antidepressants, unless a co-occurring major depressive disorder unrelated to the grief also is an issue.
For someone considered “moderately ill” on a Complicated Grief scale of four to seven, a four has symptoms “present and intrusive on most days at a level that is painful but bearable. There is some interference with activities and relationships, but functioning is not substantially impaired. There may be some avoidance of reminders of the loss. A sense of purpose or meaning is usually present, but there may be confusion about this. Suicidal thoughts may be present (Note: I have NEVER any suicidal thoughts, not by a longshot), but there is usually a desire to live. Distraction is possible temporarily, but symptoms are persistent and clinically significant.”
To get sober and deal with the nonsense I’ve dealt with is a just a horrid slap across the face, but in the end it’s the community that deals with the black eye. For everyone who knows me knows every word I have written along this journey is absolutely true. I would never put my journalistic reputation on the line by reporting anything but the truth.
I hold out trust in God that He is a just God and that people are going to be held accountable by the justice system for what they did to my dad and I.
This is a poem that expresses how a lot of people with complicated grief feel.
Don’t tell me that you understand
Don’t tell me that you know
Don’t tell me that I will survive
How I will surely grow
Don’t tell me this is just a test
That I am truly blessed
That I am chosen for this task
Apart from all the rest
Don’t come at me with answers
That can only come from me
Don’t tell me how my grief will pass
That I will soon be free
Don’t stand in pious judgment
Of the bonds I must untie
Don’t tell me how to suffer,
And don’t tell me how to cry
My life is filled with selfishness
My pain is all I see
But I need you, I need your love
Accept me in my ups and downs
I need someone to share
Just hold my hand and let me cry
And say, ‘My friend, I care.’
BY, Joanetta Hendel