What is Prolonged Grief?
A recently released letter detailed the unbearable despair Britain’s Queen Victoria experienced following the sudden death of her beloved Prince Albert, who died unexpectedly in 1861 when he was 42. The Queen wrote that she yearned for death so she could be reunited with her lost husband. For the next three years, she withdrew from public life and neglected her royal duties, a complete departure from her earlier behavior. Formerly, Victoria and Albert had been a hard-working team managing the affairs of the British Empire.
The Queen did eventually return to her royal duties but continued to wear black for the next 40 years. She never allowed any of Albert’s private rooms to be changed, preserving them as shrines in his memory. Prior to her death in 1901, Queen Victoria specifically requested to be buried wearing her wedding veil and a dressing gown worn by Prince Albert be placed by her side.
A Problem Affecting 10 Million Americans
Queen Victoria may well have been suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD). It is estimated that nearly 10 million Americans are incapacitated by the symptoms of PGD. Often, the affected person is elderly and mourning the loss of a spouse of many years, but this is not always the case. PGD is linked to increased rates of anxiety, suicide, depression and other serious health problems.
Symptoms of PGD include:
- An inability to care about anything other than the death, focusing only on their loss
- A belief that they will never again experience happiness
- Emotional numbness and feelings of uselessness
- Inability to adjust to life without their loved one
- A wish to die
New Study Focuses on Accelerated Resolution Therapy for PGD
Researchers at the University of South Florida have received a $275,000 grant from the National Institute on Aging for a two-year study on the benefits of Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) for treating prolonged grief. Drs. Kevin Kip and Cindy Tofthagen note the similarities between PGD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since there is a traumatic element in both diagnoses.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy used as an effective treatment for PTSD and other symptoms of trauma. One of the drawbacks of conventional “talk” therapies is the length and cost of treatment. Many people are unwilling or unable to commit to months or even years of therapy. ART provides substantial benefits very quickly, many feeling a significant change in one to five sessions, with the average being four. Some clients experience relief from their trauma symptoms after their first session of ART.
ART works by reprogramming how the brain stores traumatic memories. The clinician aims to resolve a traumatic memory through a combination of relaxation and memory visualization. The approach provides effective relief from strong physical and emotional reactions and physical symptoms that clients may experience, such as nausea or extreme anxiety. Subsequently, the negative images of the trauma are gradually overlaid with more positive memories and images. The bad memories are not forgotten but lose much of their power to destroy their quality of life making it possible for them to take positive steps into the future.
Drs. Kevin Kip and Cindy Tofthagen are excited by the potential of using ART as a beneficial and cost-effective treatment for prolonged grief. They believe this treatment can be especially valuable for seniors who suffer from poor health after the death of a spouse or partner. All-consuming grief causes them to remain alone in their homes, with a lack of interest in living often leading to poor diet and no exercise, frequently resulting in an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Dr. Tofthagen noted, “Multiple losses compound the trauma that people are going through.”
The USF researchers are studying 50 older Americans who have lost a close family member within the last 12 to 18 months. The study participants have all been diagnosed with prolonged, complicated grief and will be treated with ART. The two researchers are hopeful that the same success with Accelerated Resolution Therapy will be experienced for the grief-stricken as occurred with combat veterans and victims of sexual assaults and other traumas.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of Accelerated Resolution Therapy, contact ART International. Don’t allow the legacy of a past trauma to continue to cripple your life. Contact ART International today and begin living the life you deserve.