Dr. Holly Prigerson, Irving Sherwood Wright Professor in Geriatrics, Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, WDOM, is highlighted in an article published in The New York Times that explores Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD).
PGD, which was previously considered a complicated grief and persistent complex bereavement disorder requiring further study, has recently been listed as a condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In a New York Times article (published December 8, 2021), “As Covid Deaths Rise, Lingering Grief Gets a New Name,” Dr. Prigerson provides insights on the many facets of PGD.
Today, it is understood that PGD is a syndrome in which people feel stuck in a cycle of mourning that can last for years or even decades. This ongoing cycle can impair an individual’s daily life, relationships, and job performance. When someone loses a loved one, such as during the covid pandemic, symptoms (e.g., numbness, loneliness, feeling frozen, and more) can be intense and surprising, if not confusing.
“This is about a lost relationship that was central to who you are,” explains Dr. Prigerson. “Now this person is gone, it’s ‘I don’t know who I am anymore.’”
It is normal to experience a myriad of feelings during an acute phase of grief after experiencing the death of a loved one, but when some of those feelings continue every day for an extended period of time, grief counselors consider it to be a worrisome sign of PGD. In addition, with the coronavirus claiming nearly 800,000 lives so far in the United States alone, grief counselors are concerned about the ongoing fallout. This is of special significance in light of PGD being associated with a greater risk for sleep disorders, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, hospitalization, and suicide attempts.
Dr. Prigerson emphasizes that having to grieve without the support of others can add to the pain, and, in the New York Times article, she shares her own experience of losing her mother due to Covid. Dr. Prigerson, a longtime researcher into grief, serves as the co-Director of the Center for Research on End-of-Life Care at Weill Cornell Medicine. The Center provides free online resources, including a grief assessment tool, and exercises on cognitive reframing, coping and socializing.