Consensus Criteria for Complicated Grief

A. Event Criterion

Bereavement (loss of a significant other)

B. Separation Distress
The bereaved person experiences at least one of the three following symptoms which must be experienced daily or to a distressing or disruptive degree:

  • Intrusive thoughts related to the lost relationship
  • Intense feelings or emotional pain, sorrow, or pangs or grief related to the lost relationship
  • Yearning for the lost person

C. Cognitive, Emotional and Behavioural Symptoms

The bereaved person must have 5 (or more) of the following symptoms experienced daily or to a distressing or disruptive degree:

  • Confusion about one’s identity (e.g., role in life or diminished sense of self, feeling that a part of oneself has died)
  • Difficulty accepting the loss
  • Avoidance of reminders of the reality of the loss
  • Inability to trust others since the loss
  • Bitterness or anger related to the loss
  • Difficulty moving on with life (e.g., making new friends, pursuing interests)
  • Numbness (absence of emotion) since the loss
  • Feeling that life is unfulfilling, empty and meaningless since the loss
  • Feeling stunned, dazed or shocked by the loss

D. Duration
Duration at least six months from the onset of separation distress

E. Impairment
The above symptomatic disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (e.g., domestic responsibilities)

F. Relation to Other Mental Disorders
Not better accounted for by Major Depressive Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


Specialised Treatment for Complicated Grief

Specialist treatments exist for those who have suffered a loss and meet the above criteria; however specialist therapists should always be used.