Psychotherapeutic help for the death of a loved one

15.06.2020

The death of a family member is one of the most frequent reasons why people feel they need psychotherapeutic help.

This is understandable, given that in many cases, the absence of that loved one becomes something to constantly think about during the first days after death, and this implies clear psychological exhaustion.

Here we will see what are the most common psychological effects of mourning the death of a relative, to better understand this phenomenon.

How can mourning the death of a family member affect us?

The psychological mourning is a psychological alteration of mainly emotional type that arises after experiencing situations of loss, that is, events in which something or someone very important to us disappears from our lives, totally or partially.

The example of mourning par excellence is the one that appears in most people when one of their loved ones dies, since this supposes the definitive loss of someone very significant to oneself.

Most cases of psychological grief do not lead to mental disorder or evolve into what is known as "complicated grief", but that does not mean that it does not produce severe pain during the days or weeks in which it is present. Here we will see what are the main emotional and behavioral implications of a "normal" grief over the death of a relative.

1. obsessive rumination

Obsessive rumination consists of thoughts and mental images that appear in consciousness frequently and that despite causing discomfort, we are not able to "block" them.

In the case of people who are experiencing a grieving process, these mental contents that arise in their consciousness over and over again often refer to what they have lost, experiences that will no longer be repeated, etc.

2. Anxiety

Anxiety is also a common phenomenon in those who suffer from the death of a family member. Many of these people feel that the situation is beyond them, that whatever they do in reality can turn against them and, ultimately, they interpret that all kinds of sources of pain and discomfort are exposed.

In part, this is because living a death up close implies having a very clear reminder that you are vulnerable.

3. Trouble sleeping

Problems with falling asleep are relatively common in people who have recently lost a loved one, and are due, in part, to the emotional misalignments we have explained earlier.

Even people who, while in a process of psychological mourning, do not present problems when it comes to falling asleep (for example, when they are exhausted from having spent most of the day subjected to anxiety) can suffer problems in the quality of their sleep due to to nightmares, which are more common in situations like this.

4. Melancholy

In any normal mourning process it is very common to fantasize that the person who died is still alive and we can continue to relate to them.

It is a way to release the tension accumulated by the frustration of not being able to be with it, but at the same time, this generates the feeling that reality is not capable of satisfying us.

5. Dysfunctional habits

When the most painful emotions are on the surface, we are more exposed to the risk of adopting harmful habits, because we are tempted by the idea of ​​looking for distractions and experiences that help us mask discomfort.

Examples of this type of harmful coping strategies are the tendency to binge on food even without being hungry, the postponement of responsibilities to spend more time watching television, etc.

Grief does not involve developing depression and post-traumatic stress

There are two psychopathological disorders that, although they are not part of the grief processes themselves, many people tend to associate them intuitively with the concept of the death of family members: depression and post-traumatic stress. To what extent is it common for them to appear after having lost a loved one?

From what has been seen from research on this topic, the occasions in which psychological grief gives way to one of these two disorders (or both at the same time) are relatively rare, although it must be taken into account that depressive disorders with or without grief are quite common.

This means that although post-traumatic stress and major depression are not rare mental disorders, it is not very probable that a psychological duel of foot to the appearance of these.

On the one hand, most grief cases usually resolve almost completely after a few weeks or a few months, and do not lead to a mood disorder.

When we talk about addictions, alcohol or hard drugs immediately come to mind, but in reality there is a wide range in terms of these types of disorders and also addictive behaviors.

Perceptual distortions are phenomena that alter our ability to perceive the environment in a realistic way. Do you want to know what types of distortions exist and how they can be classified? Do not miss it!