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 2021, December 1 from

Author: Taylor Arthur

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...

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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