INdiana Systemic Thinking

October 6, 2008

Complicated Grief Just Got More Complicated

Filed under: Uncategorized — kurtglmft @ 9:26 pm

Newsweek’s online edition carried an interesting story recently on new research focusing on complicated grief.  According to Newsweek:

In a paper in the journal Neuroimage, O’Connor and her colleagues describe using an fMRI machine to probe the neurological basis for complicated grief among a small sample of women who had lost a close relative to breast cancer. Ordinary grief is apparent on a brain scan: show a bereaved daughter a picture of her mother, and areas of the brain that process emotional pain are activated. The women with complicated grief showed that pattern, but something else as well: activity in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region associated with pleasure, rewards and addiction. “When the women came out of the scanner, the complicated-grief group rated themselves as feeling more negative than the others,” O’Connor said. “But they also said things like, ‘Oh, it was so nice to see my mom again.’ These are the ones who pore over picture albums, talk about the person all the time, almost as if she was still here.” The women in that situation were unconsciously prolonging their grief, she concluded, because memories of the person they missed gave them pleasure—as well as pain.

Interesting, but it causes one to wonder…  As practicing clinicians what are we to do to treat these patients?  Do we encourage them not to look at pictures, etc, or do we encourage it.  Perhaps further studies will give us some direction, but the basic research provided here gives a good explaination of what is going on with these grief stricken individuals.



  1. It is so good to see that there is now a name for what I have experienced since childhood. But my losses were not attributable to death. As a child in a dysfunctional family I sustained severe depression. At school I would cry in class and the teachers would send me outside until I stopped. Those days no one knew much about depression and I never got any help. I grew up like that.

    Ten years ago my fiance took his own life. I learned more about him after his death than I knew beforehand. I grieved deeply for about 3 months, and within a year had found peace with his death and the ability to continue.

    Two years ago, I fell in love with a man who suddenly decided to discontinue the relationship with me. I was experiencing the highest of passions when he made this decision. Ever since then, tears, anger, and endless longings have been reality for me. There are times when I feel forgiveness and understanding for this man and I pray that this will last, but it doesn’t. There are times today when, out of the blue, I find myself in a sudden crying spell, and then it is over. Even though I am open to the idea, I cannot imagine anyone trumping this man in my mind and heart, which isn’t good as I am not a spring chicken at 58 years old.

    With all due respect to my dear but deceased fiance, I have found an ugly and difficult truth; It is easier to BURY them than it is to WATCH them WALK AWAY.

    If there is a need for study participants, I would be interested in participating.

    Comment by Candy Fletcher — November 30, 2008 @ 10:12 am | Reply

  2. Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

    I’m Out! 🙂

    Comment by online stock trading advice — January 10, 2010 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

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