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If so, you may be a candidate for a new study at the La Jolla VA

By Dennis Moore

December 6, 2011 (San Diego)--Sidney Zisook, M.D. and his research team at the V.A.San Diego Healthcare System are conducting a research study to find out more about the effectiveness of a medication called Celexa (citalopram) in treating complicated grief.  Complicated grief is a bereavement reaction in which acute grief is prolonged, causing distress and interfering with functioning. Symptoms o might include:

• Frequent and distracting memories, thoughts, or images of the person who died
• Feelings of sadness, anger, bitterness, or guilt
• Difficulty accepting that this person is gone
• Avoiding things that remind you of the death

This study, funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and coordinated by Ilanit Young, PhD at the V.A. Hospital in La Jolla, California has helped many grapple with the difficult and painful loss of a loved one, this writer included.

The team members working with Dr. Zisook and Dr. Young are compassionate and sensitive to the needs of those suffering from prolonged and complicated grief.

With me personally, the “Complicated Grief” study coordinated by Dr. Young has been a Godsend. After the recent death of my younger brother Jerome, coming on the heels of the death of my mother, I was an emotional wreck. I recall sitting in a restaurant and listening to a particular song on my Blackberry that both my brother and I had a fondness for, and I started to cry uncontrollably. This would occur on a number of other occasions, until I started participating in the Grief Study and was able to talk through it with Dr. Young and a psychiatrist on their research team.

Katie, another member of the research team at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, would call me periodically to gauge how I was dealing with my grief, asking questions such as suicidal tendencies and if I was experiencing painful thoughts or memories of the death of my mother. This contributed to the overall therapy towards my getting back to a degree of normalcy.

When grief feels unending…

“Some soldiers are inclined to mask their emotions. Any sign of vulnerability or ‘losing’ it can indicate that they are not tough enough to handle combat. Delaying grief may well postpone problems that can become chronic symptoms weeks, months and years later.” – Ilona Pivar, Department of Veterans Affairs

“Nine months after the death of my daughter Cynthia, I was deeply depressed and experienced the world only in ‘shades of grey.’ I knew I was stuck in grief, anxiety and depression, but I saw no way to heal myself and move forward. The only memories of my daughter were those of her pain and suffering at the end of her life. I couldn’t remember happy times from her childhood or young adulthood and I was not motivated to talk to my spouse, family or friends about her. This only served to further my grief, and I knew that I needed help to go on.” This is the experience of another person with Complicated Grief.

As we all are bound to experience some form of grief in our lifetime, be it Complicated Grief or some other form, the research team at the VA San Diego Healthcare System has a program designed to help us get through it and back to some normalcy in life.

Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and he has been a freelance contributor to the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper. He is the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics, and Corruption in Chicago.” He can be contacted at or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.

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Complicated Grief Treatment (Study)

The specter and thought of death seems to continue to haunt me, as a friend suffering from terminal cancer drove down from Los Angeles last Friday to spend a couple of days with me, as he did not seem to have anywhere else to go. It was obvious to me that he seemed to be in the waning days or moments of his life, which brought back painful memories of my mother's and brother's death. I tried to do as much as I could to console and comfort him while he was here, but feel that I could or should have done more, before he decided to drive back up to LA while I was asleep this past Sunday morning. I called up to LA that Sunday morning and talked with him briefly, and he tried to assure me by telling me "not to worry." I can not help but worry, especially after witnessing the pain and discomfort that he has been in over the months, and his loss of weight and inability to eat anything in the last couple of weeks. Sunday was the last time that I talked with Louie, my calls to him go unanswered. I pray for him every night, and trust that God will answer my prayers. The Complicated Grief Study has helped me deal with my own personal family loss, and has put in perspective my friend Louie's mortality. May God Bless Louie! 

Junior Seau

We mourn the loss of Junior Seau.


I actually completed my assessment in this program yesterday by coming in for my 6 month follow-up visit. This program/study has worked wonders for me, and I would like to thank all that were involved. As I had indicated earlier, after the death of my brother Jerome, following on the heals of the death of my mother, I was an emotional wreck! I would recommend to anyone having problems with prolonged and complicated grief to avail themselves of this program. 

Complicated Grief Treatment

We are so pleased to hear that you benefited so much from participating in the study!

People may be interested to know that while we are located in the La Jolla VA, nonveterans from the community are also welcome to participate in the study.

Everyone who is eligible for the study receives free treatment for up to 5 months (visits with psychiatrist and study medication, plus 50% are also randomly selected to get weekly therapy).

If you think you might be interested/eligible, give us a call: 858-552-7598 and/or visit:


Realizing that there is a correlation between mental illness and suicide, Living Stone Cathedral of Worship in Littlerock, California is reaching out to the community in honor of National Suicide Prevention Month. Living Stone's Health Ministry will present its first Heightening Suicide Awareness and Prevention program, from 2 to 3:45 p.m. Sunday in the Worship Center at the church, 37721 North 100th St. East. The suicide rate in the Antelope Valley, where Living Stone Cathedral of Worship is located, was 14%, the highest in Los Angeles County.

"Complicated Grief"

 Although I still have moments when I think of my now deceased mother and brother, the grief that I used to feel is not as severe, thanks to my participation in the Complicated Grief study at UCSD/VA Hospital. I have quite frequent dreams of my mother and brother, but they are pleasant reminders of the great moments in life that we shared together. As a matter of fact, I had a dream just the other night of my brother, Jerome, in which he and I were playing a game of pool - and I was on the verge of beating him, when I woke up from the dream. When I shared this with another brother in Chicago, Ronnie, he jokingly said that I woke up from the nightmare - knowing full well that our brother's prowess at shooting pool would not allow me to beat him. Earlier, I had had a dream of playing cards with my mother, which was a family passion and tradition. I do find myself walking through my apartment - and talking almost daily to the pictures of my mother and brother, as I have so many pleasurable memories of them.