Grief and Loss Therapy

Complicated Grief Disorder Treatment in California

Complicated grief disorder, also known as complicated bereavement disorder, keeps those affected trapped in feelings of loss and sadness. While grief is a normal and healthy human emotion, it is meant to ease with time. When suffering becomes a chronic and debilitating presence in one’s life, it can become a complicated grief disorder and requires treatment. Our Psychiatric Treatment Center in Orange County, California is here to help.

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Table of Contents

Understanding Complicated Grief Disorder

The deep sadness following the death of a loved one is a universal experience. However, with time and self-care, healing and acceptance are meant to ease the pain. If these feelings do not lighten in the following weeks or months after the loss, those suffering can feel utterly alone.

They live in a world populated only by themselves and their grief. The grief can become so powerful they don’t know who they are without it and find it impossible to let go.

Healthy grief can quickly become dysfunctional and debilitating. If someone in your life cannot overcome their feelings of loss and devastation, they may need assistance from a mental health professional.

What Causes Complicated Grief Disorder?

The loss of a family member or friend is traumatic. Grief is the price we pay for love and, because of this, some deaths may hit us harder than others. Grief lingers above those left behind like a storm cloud, painting the world gray for weeks or even months before they’re able to accept the circumstances.

However, even after months, some people are left in denial. They fail to recover from the grief and find their lives paused. Unable to move forward and find a resolution, their sadness deepens, and their daily life suffers.

10 to 20 percent of people mourning a loss will experience complicated grief disorder. While this disorder can touch anyone who has lost a loved one, some risk factors influence the likelihood of developing CGD.

Risk Factors that provoke complicated grief disorder include:

  • Losing more than one person in a short period of time
  • Being very dependent on the individual who passed away
  • The death was shocking, premature, or unexpected
  • Witnessing the end or being alongside the deceased as they suffered from an illness
  • Previous histories of a mental health disorder, such as depression, PTSD, or substance abuse disorder

Losing those we love an unavoidable occurrence. Everyone will experience this trauma at one or more points in their life. When death strikes, those mourning must watch out for each other and seek help if the grief intensifies and continues.

Signs and Symptoms

In the first few months following a loss, complicated grief syndrome symptoms will be impossible to define from healthy grieving. In these early stages, grief is expected to be pervasive, intense, and seemingly impossible. If someone is grieving deeply, this does not have to be a sign of an emotional or psychological imbalance.

However, if the grief seems to be getting worse with time or persists for over six months, complicated bereavement disorder may develop.

While grief manifests and shows itself in different ways from person to person, these behaviors are often signs of complicated grief disorder.

Risk Factors that provoke complicated grief disorder include:

  • Obsession with the deceased person
  • Deep, debilitating sadness that never lightens
  • Increased irritability and low threshold for other people
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
    Decreased attention to hygiene or physical appearance
  • Becoming a homebody
    Anger and bitterness toward the world and life in general
  • Removal from people and activities the individual once enjoyed
  • Inability to complete tasks
  • Reckless, impulsive, self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation

If someone in your life is experiencing unshakeable grief, you must show them your support. However, the attention and love of friends and family members alone are not enough. The suffering individual needs therapy or treatment to overcome their heartbreak.

Diagnosing Complicated Grief Disorder

Complicated grief disorder is not yet classified as a clinical disorder, but it is taken seriously by mental health professionals. Without official sanction, diagnosing complicated grief disorder is left to the interpretation of the mental health professional involved. However, most mental health professionals agree that six or more months of deepening grief is enough to confirm the existence of complicated grief.

Complicated bereavement can also co-occur or worsen pre-existing mental health conditions. The SoCal Sunrise Recovery Center professionals keep this in mind when diagnosing and treating individuals with complicated grief.

Grief and Loss Treatment Options

Complicated grief is a painful, persistent, life-altering condition that requires immediate active treatment. Outpatient therapy might be enough for some people to overcome their heartbreak. In more severe cases, however, intensive inpatient therapy is the most effective.
Complicated grief therapy (CGT) may help the suffering individual refocus on surviving relationships and their personal goals. In addition to therapy, antidepressants may also help ease the burden of CG.

Practices like yoga, art, exercise, acupuncture, and music therapy also help restore emotional balance and reinforce a positive outlook on life.


The goal of CG treatment is not to make patients forget the memories they share with the departed or to make their sense of loss disappear. That would be irresponsible as repressed grief can cause even more complications over time. Instead, treatment is administered to find resolution and acceptance.

Together, we can help you make peace and move on while maintaining the memory of your loved one.

Complicated Grief Treatment in Orange County

Don’t let your loved ones suffer through their complicated grief alone. The Southern California Sunrise Recovery Mental Health Team is here to help them overcome.

At Southern California Sunrise Mental Health’s Orange County Psychiatric Treatment Facility, we handle complicated grief holistically. Our services provide therapeutic and medicinal treatments uniquely catered to each patient’s individual struggles and personalities.

Call today, and our skilled complicated grief therapists and psychologists can get started on a comprehensive plan to help you free yourself from the shackles of grief.

Clinically Reviewed By:

Joe Cavins, LMFT

Joseph Cavins holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Cal State Fullerton and a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology. Initially inspired during his tenure as a school bus driver, Joseph balanced his duties with his studies, demonstrating a strong commitment to his academic pursuits. Post-graduation, he gained significant experience in clinical settings, interning at Aspen Community Services where he later served for 10 years, eventually becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He also earned certification from the Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Association as a Mental Health Provider.

Joseph’s professional journey includes roles in private practice and contracting with the Santa Ana Unified School District’s Special Education Department, culminating in his recent position at Southern California Sunrise Recovery in 2024.