Grief: It’s Complicated!

Listen to this obituary

There are 8,257 memorials found in Linwood Cemetery in Paragould, AR, among whom are my parents and a little brother who died at age three years, ten months, of a misdiagnosed ruptured appendix. He passed on a bit less than two years before I was born, so I never knew him, and that has impacted me for six decades. I have always suffered from separation anxiety disorder. I am sure this loss was complicated for me, as the “replacement child.” I have trouble “moving on.”

Do you have complicated grief issues?

Complicated grief may be considered when the intensity of grief has not decreased in the months after your loved one’s death. Some mental health professionals diagnose complicated grief when grieving continues to be intense, persistent, and debilitating beyond 12 months.

As you have an opportunity, it would be worthwhile for you to get the largest sheet of paper you can find and create a personal timeline.

1. Use a ruler to draw a horizontal line across the page(s). Write your birth year at the left end of the line and the current year at the right end.

2. Begin filling in important memorable dates as they come to mind. You can add colors or symbols to help categorize them (for example, a heart to represent your wedding date, a cardboard box to symbolize your move from Pennsylvania to Florida). Here are some examples of milestones that would be a good addition to your timeline:        

● The birth or death of a family member or friend
● The beginning or end of a romantic relationship
● Graduation from high school or college
● A job change
● A move to a new location
● An illness or injury
● An award or achievement
● An important friendship
● A personal loss

3. When you feel that you have recorded the most significant events on your timeline, read over it in chronological order. Which memories make you smile with nostalgia or affection? Which makes you shake your head or cringe in embarrassment? Which still give you pangs of pain or regret? Free-write for a few minutes about the emotions and reflections that this therapeutic journaling activity brought to the surface. Which events do you think changed you the most? Which helped you grow? Which do you see in a different light now than you did at the time?

“It came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him….” (Genesis  4:8 and then notice Vs. 25)

That’s the first example I can recall where the Bible talks about a complicated grief situation, although I’m sure that Adam and Eve never really got past the sin in the Garden.

As you look again at your timeline, where are you stuck in your grief? Help is available, and it is no glory or honor to what or whom you have lost to die of a broken heart. Better days are ahead.


Picture of Doug Greenway

Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at

1 thought on “Grief: It’s Complicated!”

  1. Now that I am a senior citizen I know that time does heal some serious hurts in life but there are some hurts such as losing a parent that you learn to live with. In other words you just learn to live with the pain. It is always there but you just don’t think about it everyday.


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