There is no definite point in time or a list of symptoms that define unresolved grief. Unresolved grief lasts longer than usual for a person's social circle or cultural background. It may also be used to describe grief that does not go away or interferes with the person's ability to take care of daily responsibilities.
Unresolved grief tends to be more common in people who:
A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD) may experience:
Excessive and irrational concern about contamination or serious illness
Too much concern with keeping everything arranged in an exact way
Intrusive thoughts or horrible mental images
Sexual or religious thoughts felt to be unacceptable
Excessive fear of your house burning or flooding, of causing a car wreck, of spreading an illness, of losing something, of being responsible for another person getting hurt or killed
Experience a loss that others might not recognize as significant, such as miscarriage.
How people express unresolved grief varies. People may:
Act as though nothing has changed. They may refuse to talk about the loss.
Become preoccupied with the memory of the lost person. They may not be able to talk or think about anything else.
Become overly involved with work or a hobby.
Drink more alcohol, smoke more cigarettes, or take more medicines.
Become overly concerned about their health in general or about an existing health condition and see a doctor more often than usual.
Become progressively depressed or isolate themselves from other people.
In addition to the list above, teens may show unresolved grief by using illegal drugs, taking part in illegal activities (such as stealing), or having unprotected sex. They may also become more accident-prone, avoid their friends, and have difficulty completing school work.
Young children may show unresolved grief by developing behavior problems or expressing fears about being alone, especially at night.
People with unresolved grief who do not seek treatment are more likely to develop complications such as depression as a result of grieving.