Complicated Grief: Rhonda O’Neill, RN

Look for Grief Anonymous to be highlighting authors and other people who are using their creative talents to give back to the community of those who are grieving.  Rhonda’s own experience with complicated grief coupled with the fact that she’s worked closely with the dying and sick makes her the perfect person in my opinion that I would want to hear about on this subject.  Thank you for allowing me to showcase your hard earned work and effort to help others by giving back with your story!!  Today her book goes on sale with Kindal!  Check her book out!

Introducing, Rhonda O’Neill:

I am a Registered Nurse, who worked in the specialty of Pediatric Intensive Care for over a decade. I witnessed death on a regular basis, but did not understand the impact of death until a decade ago when I experienced the tragic deaths of my husband and son within two years of each other.

I was diagnosed with complicated grief in 2013, five years after my son died, although I had the signs of complicated grief long before I was diagnosed.

Complicated grief is a harmful form of grief in which the griever does not process the loss of their loved one in a healthy way, and they are not able to adapt to life without their loved one. The griever remains stuck in the acute stages of grief indefinitely. Unhealthy emotions and thought patterns take hold of the griever, preventing the healing process, and affecting the griever’s ability to function in everyday life.

One out of ten grievers will experience complicated grief. There are factors that are known to increase the risk for complicated grief  – multiple losses, the loss of a spouse or child,  a traumatic death, complications surrounding the way the griever found out about the death- are just a few of the circumstances that can put the mourner at high risk for complicated grief.

I have closely followed the work of Dr. Katherine Shear at the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University. She has pioneered work on complicated grief and has developed a 16 session treatment for cg which is twice as effective for cg as traditional grief therapy. I use my medical background to help to translate the information on complicated grief for the nonmedical griever.

Complicated grief has tremendous emotional and health implications for the griever and that is why I hope to help educate the grieving population about the risks. The griever struggling with cg is at higher risk for suicide, numerous mental and physical illnesses and early death.

I was not aware of the therapy for cg when I was struggling myself. My healing came through a search for questions on the meaning of life, death and where God was amidst all of this pain.

Through my search for answers, I eventually learned how to transform my pain through emotional and spiritual growth. I discovered that the questions I had about death ultimately lead me to deeper questions about the greater meaning of life.

I have researched the philosophy, science, metaphysics and theology of death, life, God and the universe for a decade. Each piece of truth that I uncovered helped me develop a spiritual path that allowed me to transform my grief, eventually arriving on the other side, and although I would always grieve the loss of my loved ones, I was ready to begin trying to live life again. I knew through my spiritual experiences that my loved ones were safe and happy in another spiritual realm.

My hope is that my experiences and search for answers will help to spark the flame that will light the way for someone else’s journey on the path of grief. Ultimately, we each have to find our own answers and our own path to the other side of grief. But, through joined understanding and support, I believe we can help to illuminate each other’s path.



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