The Sunday News
Prolonged Grief disorder (PGD) is a newly defined syndrome that is a specific reaction to the loss of someone loved very much by the members of the family or relatives.
It is a pathological form of grieving characterised by chronic functionally disabling symptoms following a loss.
Prolonged grief disorder is alternatively referred to as complicated grief, pathological grief or traumatic grief. The disorder is experienced when a loved one is lost in the family for example father, mother, sister, brother or any member of the family who was cherished.
Prolonged grief disorder is characterised by elevated and persistent mental distress following the loss. Factors that may contribute to PGD are maladaptive thoughts like blaming self or others of the death.
Other factors that might contribute are avoidance behaviours, inability to manage painful emotions and lack of social support that interferes with adaptation to loss.
Normally the affected individual shows symptoms of intense yearning for the deceased, difficulty accepting the loss, difficulty moving forward in life and feeling that life is empty or meaningless since the loss.
In some situations, the affected individual would think that life would be meaningless without the loved one and would wish to die too.
Some prolonged grief-disordered clients are associated with reduced quality of life, social and occupational impairment, physical health complaints, substance use problems, sleep disruptions, increased risk of cardiac events and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
In some cases, clients who are vulnerable or prone to PDG are those who lost loved ones consecutively within a short space of time or one year after another.
Normally affected individuals do not seek treatment until the situation gets worse. As soon as relatives or friends see that those who lost loved ones are avoiding confronting stimuli that serve as reminders of the loss such as photos of the deceased and avoidance of engaging in usual pleasurable activities and meaningful relationships, they need to assist by encouraging him or her to seek counselling.
The grieved individual needs a lot of support from relevant others and the employers also need to understand that the grieved individual need time to grieve the lost loved one.
For example, when an employee lost his or her mother in two months’ time lost a child, and in the process, the wife or husband felt ill, the employer has to consider giving this individual enough time to grieve so that they would perform effectively at work.
If the employer is insensitive to the employee, the employee would end up coming to work late, does not perform according to expected standards and the employee might seem ‘stubborn’ and ‘undisciplined’ but the truth would be that the individual would be grieving and dealing with a lot of issues due to the loss of a loved one.
Individuals who lost a loved one would be going through a lot.
People must understand that individuals are unique and different in adapting or accepting the loss of a loved one.
Sometimes the lost loved one would be the bread winner for the family so the way individuals react to the loss of a loved one who was the bread winner and the other one who is not the bread winner might be different.
In other words, an individual who has lost more than one loved one may experience grief differently for different death depending on a variety of factors including the nature of the relationship to the deceased as well as circumstances associated with the specific death.
Most people who experience an important death manage to successfully adapt to the loss over time. If grief progresses to a more integrated outcome for approximately more than six to 12 months then prolonged grief is evident.
Research has shown that other risk factors for developing PGD include pre-existing psychiatric condition, nature of death and inadequate social support.
Demographic factors include gender, old age, and lower social economic status. Prolonged grief disorder is also higher among individuals with a history of mood disorder, bipolar disorder (bipolar disorder and depression) as well as those who experience childhood adversity. Further, those bereaved by sudden losses like suicide, homicide, accidents, and sudden death may also develop prolonged grief condition.
In Shona we say ‘kuunganirwa katatu, pekutanga pakuzvarwa pechipiri muchato mutsvene, pechitatu rufu’. Meaning people normally celebrate for an individual three times in their life. Firstly on birth, secondly on a wedding and thirdly on death.
It’s obvious that when an individual is born, what is left is death. Yes, it is painful to lose our loved ones but people need to know that death is inevitable. When people are faced with death in our family we need to stand and support each other during this difficult time.
Those who are alive need to continue with their lives because their time will also come. Individuals must avoid blaming themselves for the death, avoid blaming others and avoid blaming medical staff because no one can stop death.
By blaming ourselves we end up having mental illnesses due to prolonged grief. Ngatichemei netariro.