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On the last track we discussed risk factors of complicated mourning. I described six risk factors of complicated mourning. They are traumatic deaths, the caretaker is not functioning well, the child had a love-hate relationship with the deceased, the child experienced multiple losses, the deceased had an extensive illness, and the child has other mental health issues.
On this track we will discuss the six signs of complicated mourning. The six signs of complicated mourning that we will discuss are continuous hyperactivity, ongoing and significant changes in performance, persistent regression, ongoing depression, self-destructive behavior and chronic anger.
If, on the previous track, you identified a client with a risk factor of complicated mourning, you can use this information to determine if he or she has developed a pattern of complicated mourning.
6 Signs of Complicated Mourning
#1 Continuous Hyperactivity
I stated, "When children are continuously hyperactive due to complicated mourning, they have a fear that is generalized. Nothing specific frightens these grieving kids, but instead everything frightens them."
Think of your Davey. Is he continuously hyperactive due to generalized fear? Later on this track, we will discuss a technique to help children like Davey release their fear.
#2 Ongoing and Significant Changes in Performance
But if the child experiences ongoing and significant changes in performance over an extended period of time, it may be a sign of complicated mourning. Would you also agree that a child’s social patterns can indicate possible complicated mourning?
#3 Persistent Regression
I experienced regression show up in 7 year old Jamie as bed wetting, thumb sucking, and an unwillingness to share. Jamie’s father Eric stated, "It seems like Jamie has reverted back to being three. She wets her bed a couple times each month and I catch her sucking her thumb sometimes."
I stated to Eric, "Isolated incidents or temporary behaviors are generally not cause for concern. However, if Jamie engages in persistent regression, it may be a sign of complicated mourning." Have you treated a grieving child like Jamie who required evaluation to determine if she suffered from complicated mourning? Later we will discuss a technique.
#4 Ongoing Depression
#5 Self-Destructive Behavior
I ask parents of grieving children to beware of activities such as substance use, sexual promiscuity, high-risk sports, reckless driving, and gang activity. Obviously, signs of suicidal tendencies must be immediately addressed. Would you agree that self-destructive behavior is a late sign of complicated mourning?
#6 Chronic Anger
Sarah, age 14 developed patterns of complicated mourning. Sarah’s mother, Renee noticed her chronic anger as an indication of complicated mourning. Renee stated, "Sarah is always so angry. In the weeks after her boyfriend died, it seemed normal. Now I’m starting to worry. It’s been three months and she lashes out constantly. The police have been to the school five times in the last two weeks because she gets so violent!"
Think of your Sarah. Does she or he display open aggression due to complicated mourning?
Technique: Let Go By Holding On
Think of your Sarah. Could an anger management technique like the "Let Go By Holding On" technique help pave the way for constructive grief processing?
On this track we have discussed the six signs of complicated mourning. The six signs of complicated mourning are continuous hyperactivity, ongoing and significant changes in performance, persistent regression, ongoing depression, self-destructive behavior and chronic anger.
On the next track we will discuss suicide and murder. We will explore how to explain suicide, how suicide confuses children, and how to explain murder.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Salinas, C. L. (2021). Playing to heal: The impact of bereavement camp for children with grief. International Journal of Play Therapy, 30(1), 40–49.
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