I have heard the expression Complex Grief from time to time and to be honest I don’t buy it. What I do understand is that grief can get tangled up much like a bunch of gold chain necklaces in an old jewelry box.
Here is how I see it.
We all have experienced multiple losses from relationship loss to job loss, to loss of a pet and the loss of a loved one to death. Each of these losses has its unique path and expression. Yes, you read that correctly! Even though you are the same person experiencing each of the losses the expression of those individual losses is its own matchless journey.
What seems to happen, at least in my experience, is that the leftover or unexpressed grief mingles or intertwines with the next loss’ left over grief and the next one gets wrapped up in the tangle and so it goes. It can look like complex grief no doubt and it is simply intertwined grief.
The key for me is to identify all the individual losses a person has experienced. While doing so help them unravel the strands of grief they are carrying that seem to feel like one big knot of emotions. Trying to approach all of it all at once IS overwhelming so lets start one strand at a time.
- Make a list of the losses.
- Identify the leftover emotions.
- Express them as fully as possible using a format that works for the one carrying the grief.
- Create a poem, a picture, a drawing, a symbol in the three dimensional world and burn or bury it.
- After two weeks review the list of losses for any remaining leftovers and perform another ceremony where necessary.
By taking one strand (loss) at a time the person experiences that their grief knot is a doable project and seeing success they can let go fully into the process and complete the untangling of their bundle of grief.
Keeping it simple in this way creates a process the individual can succeed at.