Complicated Grief and Bipolar After the Loss of a Loved One

March 8, 2017 Taylor Arthur

When you have bipolar, grieving the death of a loved one can be complicated and downright dangerous (Complicated Grief, PTSD, and Your Brain). Since the stillbirth of my son almost nine years ago, I continue to learn how to cope with this deep loss and remain mentally healthy as I care for my bipolar disorder. Complicated grief with bipolar after the death of a loved one is not an easy thing.

Bipolar Complicates How I Grieve the Death of a Loved One

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I couldn’t imagine that anything could be worse than living with this illness for the rest of my life. And then, at the end of a healthy pregnancy, my husband and I lost our first baby boy at 36 weeks. Even though I thought I knew how to care for my bipolar disorder, this catastrophic grief changed everything.

Even though my grief feels very different than a manic or depressive episode, the sorrow I feel is still so strong that it can tilt the axis of my sanity (Grieving a Loss: Mental Illness and Bereavement). Like a tidal wave pushing through the center of me, grief continues to catch me off guard (Grief Comes in Waves-Watch for Bipolar Waves). In those moments of disarming sadness, I wonder how I’ll ever survive this level of suffering for the rest of this minute, hour, or day.

And if I’m not very careful, I can get swept away by the overwhelming reality that I will live with this pain for the rest of my life. Suddenly, I can find myself just wishing to be in heaven with my son just to be done with all of this pain. And that moment of desperation can become very dangerous very quickly when you live with bipolar disorder (Suicide: A Very Real Threat to a Person with Bipolar Disorder).

Grief is Complicated by a Longer Healing Time for Me

Soon after my son’s funeral, I realized that because of bipolar, grief was going to be a very long journey for me. It seemed more difficult for me to process than anyone else around me. Was it because I was the mother? Was it because I have bipolar disorder that I love so very deeply and feel emotions down to my marrow? Maybe it is because I had wanted this baby for so very long? Maybe I struggled to contain this grief because it was my first, deep loss? Whatever the case, I learned quickly that grieving for my son was not going to be something that ended for me. Because of this, I needed to figure out a way to manage this tidal wave of sadness before it swept me away.

Complicated Grief and Staying Mentally Healthy

Bipolar disorder plus complicated grief after a traumatic death can be very dangerous. If you experience complicated grief with bipolar, you're not alone.The right way to grieve your loved one is the way that will help you affirm life and stay healthy, period. Surviving your grief with bipolar without becoming manic or depressed needs to be your primary concern (What is the Difference Between Depression and Grief?). For me, this means taking extra time to care for my bipolar disorder. I see my doctors more frequently during the times my grief seems to surface: the holidays, my son's birthday month, and when new babies are born into our family. I get the help I need before the waves of sadness catch me off guard (Planning to Minimize the Impact of Death on Bipolar Disorder).

When I am overcome with sorrow from time to time, I reach out and tell someone who will empathize. I do not isolate myself, especially if I am having feelings of despair. Sometimes just voicing my feelings helps me to navigate my way through them.

So if you are grieving the loss of a loved one and you live with bipolar disorder, know that there is no wrong way to grieve if it keeps you healthy and stable. There is no timetable for grief. Give yourself permission to honor your pain in whatever way you see fit for as long as it takes. Take care of your bipolar disorder and you will find a way through your loss.

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APA Reference
Arthur, T. (2017, March 8). Complicated Grief and Bipolar After the Loss of a Loved One, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Taylor Arthur

Rich Wahler
August, 13 2023 at 5:07 pm

Also bi-polar. Lost my Mom July 28Th. My emotions are swinging wildly from day to day. One minute enraged by how I was treated in her will and the next in tears over the loss. I beleive she was also bi-polar but undiagnosed and would have never sought treatment for such. She was old school and did not beleive in "mental health" issues or treatment. She was also a malignant narcissist. I have relentlessly been made to feel like I am somehow a lesser person because of my diagnoses. Unfortunately, my Mom made my sister the trustee of her estate. One of the most selfish people on the planet. My sister can take her full half of the estate post probate but my half of the estate is controlled by her. She decides when to dispense, how, where, how much at her complete discretion. So I have to make any request for financial assistance through her along with back-up documentation supporting the request. WTF! I beleve my Mom felt I was so incapacitated that my funds would be best handled by my sister. Far from the truth. I manage my life and finances no different than anyone else. Adding to my daily upset the feeling that I have to somehow be "managed" by my only sibling who I want nothing to do with. My sister, 4 years older, and I were always close until my Mom's death and the reading of the will with her being listed as trustee. My sister started making arrangements for what she would get at our dying Mother's bedside and always when I was not present and when our Mother was heavily sedated. Greedy and underhanded and I am forced to deal with her. So now grieving the loss of my Mother, the death of the relationship with my Sister, job loss just before my Mom's death, unpaid bills up the wazoo, an unregistered and broken down car with no A/C, Etc. So I feel all of you and the challenges being faced. These forums/discussions help. Thank you for that.

July, 6 2022 at 2:40 am

I don’t know why my Physicologist after my 19 year old daughter diagnosed me with bipolar 1. I feel I am just grieving. I also lost my dad in 2020, my 19 year old daughter in 2021 and my husband of 38 years this year in May.
Has anyone else been diagnosed like this even though I feel it’s just grieving!
Any suggestions or thoughts are greatly appreciated.

March, 19 2021 at 11:17 am

Thank you Taylor I can relate to how you feel and to the other comments. I have BP / adhd and I am really struggling. My mum died 3yrs ago which pushed me over and a few months after my wife of 37yrs was diagnosed with advanced breast to bone cancer and given a minimal of 2 years survival I was / am devastated stated as she is my Rock and my reason for living. It feels I am already grieving before the event. I know I should make the best of the time we have, but how can someone so damaged to the core put a brave smile on everything. Before these events I was happy and nobody see my mental illness as i felt normal most days. This has x 1000 my illness and I really cannot cope even though I am maxed out on elvanse 70mg. Thanks and sorry to bother you with negative vibes.

March, 17 2019 at 9:57 pm

My father passed away 2 weeks ago. I am bipolar and still struggle with meds. Since his death I have been on a roller coaster. Then suddenly I went numb. When i do feel it feels too deep to handle and thoughts of death sprinkles in my mind, but then I feel numb again. My family fears that I will commit suicide. I want to reassure them that I wont but event I am scared. What can I do? How can I handle my dad death. Other than my husband and children he was all I had. And he was my support person with my bipolar. I just feel so numb. Is it normal for bipolars?

July, 2 2019 at 7:42 am

My mum died 2 yrs ago. I just miss her so much. Never had many friends, always felt so different to everyone. My dad died a month ago.
I really should be on BP meds again, but lithium makes me feel like a robot and their antipsychotics made me gain 30 plus kilos.
Every day for the last year ive thought of suicide. I won't do it. i hope. As my mum would have said, It's a permanent solution to a problem.
My partner and I have been fighting alot, I've been angry and sad every morning when I wake up. I couldn't hold down a regular job if i wanted to right now. Personal hygene and regular meals are a thing of the past now constant anxiety is here again. Be positive, my partner says. Like that will fix my brain. What would mum say if she was here with me now?
Be kind to yourself.
Don't let mental illness define who you are.
This too shall pass
and if it doesn't. at least you won't be bored...

Bipolar 2
August, 15 2022 at 8:43 pm

My father passed away suddenly 3 years ago. I suffered for 2 years. Cried every day. No one could help me. I’m bipolar. No one validated my grief. My father was my Alamo, he was my last line of defense in hard times. He was my go to guy because he loved me unconditionally… now I have no one, My advice is this, no one cares when you suffer like we do. They begin to avoid you, and you end up alone. No one listened to me, and I lost many of relationships. Find solace in others who know your pain, ie. those who have bipolar complicated grief. You have to just suffer thru it, and it will probably be two years before it really eases off. I know that’s bleak, but it’s the road we travel. Just Try not to become bitter like me, I’m also in a bipolar depression right now, so I apologize, for my candid reply. But I know your pain, and my heart hurts for you. May God comfort you in times of despair and longings for dad.

September, 20 2023 at 4:51 am

I sympathize and everything you say in here is so true. I am not looking forward to year 2 either. It took me 3years to get over my mom's passing and yet my dd was there. I've always lived with them. I am an only child adult orphan also also burdened with guilt of not handling my dad's situation better with his doctors and no relatives, except for one uncle, care about me.

November, 8 2018 at 1:10 pm

Thank you so much for this article. I am bipolar and lost my mom 3 years ago unexpectedly and have come along way with my grief until last month my dad goes into liver failure and dies a little after 2 weeks. I feel so lost and so lonely. As I am an only child left with with one family member that lives so far away.
I’m have my a hard time with my work place an my employer doesn’t believe in mental health and what it can do to someone like me when there is loss or hardship. Anyways thanks for letting me not feel so alone.

Dan Guess
August, 26 2018 at 9:08 pm

Thank You, that's very helpful. I am bipolar and I just lost my mom.

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