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Healing Emotions After Loss


Dr. Charles F. Reynolds III

Grieving the death of a loved one is undoubtedly one of the hardest things we may ever do as humans. Strong feelings of sadness and loneliness commonly occur following the death of a loved one. Other painful feelings, like fear, anxiety, guilt, resentment, anger, and shame are also common. Experiencing any or all of these emotions during acute grief can be very normal.
However, some people find that their grief does not change with time. These people are bothered by something that happened around the death or about how things have been after the death. These people are “stuck” in the grieving process and suffering from the condition called complicated grief. No matter how long it has been, they still feel that all they want is to be with their loved one again. They might try to do things to feel closer to the person who died like spend a lot of time looking at pictures or visiting the grave again and again; sometimes, they get so emotional when they are reminded of the person who died that they want to avoid these reminders. People with complicated grief often feel that life is empty and meaningless or that joy is no longer possible for them. They might frequently feel angry or bitter about what happened or feel confused about what to do with their life. They feel distant from family and friends, who seem like they don’t understand and are disappointed in their inability to adjust to the loss.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are hoping to learn how to help people suffering from complicated grief. There is evidence to support the use of a specialized talk therapy that targets the sadness around grief along with working toward resumption of pleasurable activities and life goals. Additionally, there is some preliminary data that suggests the use of medication in addition to the specialized talk therapy could increase rates of improvement in grief related symptoms. The Healing Emotions After Loss (HEAL) study aims to uncover which treatment is optimal in helping survivors restore their lives.
Charles F. Reynolds III, M.D., and his team are in the initial stages of recruitment for this study. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 95 who are grieving for at least six months since the loss may contact HEAL Study Staff at (412) 246-6006 for further information.

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