Wednesday, 30 November 2011

how to spot complicated grief

The loss of a loved one can be shocking and life-changing. The grieving process is usually disruptive for a period of time and that's to be expected, but when does it become serious or problematic for the sufferer? Many people turn to Tarot readers for guidance and closure after losing someone and to an extent it can be helpful and provide useful advice. However, when a querent is still asking the same questions and suffering with feelings of disbelief or severe depression months after the death it could be a sign of what the psychology community call 'complicated grief' and this condition tends to require more serious help from a qualified professional. In this post I'm going to look into the symptoms and signs of complicated grief and discuss the best way of steering the querent towards more appropriate support. If any of the following issues are detected, it's time to take action:
  • prolonged denial - The querent should feel ready to accept the death after a period of adjustment and support from friends and family. If there are obvious signs of ongoing denial after six months the situation could have turned into complicated grief, particularly if the querent is describing behaviour such as needing to pretend that the lost loved one is still alive.
  • extreme anger or guilt - During the initial grieving process these stages are normal but they should not be ongoing and are usually a sign that the querent is stuck in the grieving phase and unable to move on.
  • feelings of worthlessness and/or suicidal thoughts - If the death has presented the querent with no sense of self-belief or a feeling that life is completely pointless, it's obvious they're not dealing with it in a healthy manner and may need to address deeper issues.
  • inability to carry out daily functions - If life has come to a standstill or the normal routine has not resumed at all after six months of the grieving process it's usually a sign that the querent is stuck in the initial stage of bereavement and needs guidance on how to move forward.
  • seeing and hearing things - Sometimes serious denial of a death can manifest itself in a belief that the loved one is still around giving messages or telling the bereaved person how to behave or what to do. If you suspect that anything the querent is disclosing to you is of a deluded or psychotic nature it's important that instead of taking money for a Tarot reading you instead sensitively express your concerns and suggest that the querent seeks more serious help.
  • severe imposed isolation - If the querent has cut off from friends and family and is seeking an unusual amount of time alone it can be a sign of complicated grief. A bereaved person will fear reaching out if they know that the support they'll receive will encourage them to move on from the death and continue with normal life. This may cause them to instead seek the advice of psychics and Tarot readers who may be more likely to indulge them in their fantasies and allow them to continue putting the grief at the centre of their life.
So, how do you tell a querent that it's time to seek professional help? There is no perfect way to bring up such a subject. The best thing to do is be completely honest but remain understanding and sympathetic. The most important thing from a Tarot reader's point of view is that we can stand by our code of ethics and never take money for something which we feel is not helpful to the client and could cause more confusion or damage. You may receive a negative, aggressive or defensive reaction from the client but it's worth the risk if it means that you're removing yourself from being a part of the unhealthy system they're using to avoid dealing with the death.

As a Tarot reader it is inevitable that you will occasionally have to deal with someone's darkest hour and help them through it by means of interpreting the cards genuinely and responsibly. However, we must accept the limitations of Tarot, no matter how helpful we believe it to be. We can only offer so much in terms of clarity and support. If we see no improvement or we feel that the situation is worsening, we owe it to ourselves and the client to speak up.