Complicated Grief

An Article for the Dunwoody Crier September 2001


Marsha B. Sauls, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

770-668-0350 x 221



Our Dunwoody Community has not yet completely recovered from the trauma of the tornado that was visited upon many of our neighbors.  The losses of that event are still visible.  The events that occurred nationally on Sept. 11 overlay the emotional and physical wounds of the community’s recent past. This process is called complicated grief.

At these times, the current grief is more difficult to cope with because it is intensified by past losses. Working through complicated grief takes longer and it is particularly important to know that trauma is more difficult to handle when experiencing complicated grief.


It is normal to have a myriad of feelings in response to grief. During these times we experience “invisible wounds” of loss such as:  loss of person, loss of safety, loss of hope, or loss of meaning.  The secondary trauma of “getting back to normal” is possible but seems a difficult “walk through jello”.


Congratulations to our national and community leaders for their response to the need for grieving as a Nation and as Community.  The ceremonies in churches, synagogues and public places that highlight our hurt and pray for comfort, individual responses of unfurling flags, volunteering, and offering donations demonstrate unity, support, and community and are important ingredients to healing. 


The action steps of cleaning up, honoring lives lost, and the struggling, planning and carrying out of plans to recreate safety for day to day life are also keys to recovery, as are talking and keeping ourselves from being isolated in pain.


After a trauma, life is never the same. There are always permanent changes but we learn things.  So far, we have learned the depths of the evil in the hearts of terrorists and it is now flagrantly public.  Now, the undeniable knowledge of that evil is uniting us globally in order to overcome it. And we will.