The term Delayed Grief is used to describe grief that is postponed and resurfaces sometime later. It is not unusual, after a loss, that there are many things that must be done. Often people decide that they “must be strong” for all those around them and suppress their own feelings of pain and loss, so that they can be there for others. Some people feel that the best way to handle their personal loss is to “keep busy” with work or other endeavors, rather than taking time to go through the grief process.
The problem with grief is that if you fail to take action to deal with your personal emotional pain, and instead suppress it, it waits deep inside to haunt you later. Mark Liebenow used this quote in an article in “The Good Men Project:”
“Ignoring grief is like a leak in our roof. We can take care of it now, or we can wait as it seeps through the ceiling, gets into the walls, and warps the floors.”
This truly describes what it is like if we fail to address the grief that touches our lives. When we suppress it, it seeps into other parts of our wellbeing. It can inadvertently impact other relationships and can keep us from fully enjoying them. These suppressed feelings can also negatively impact a person’s health, resulting in headaches, ulcers and other issues.
This is exactly what we have been saying at The Grief Recovery Institute for nearly 40 years. Unfortunately, this is something that many of us do on a regular basis. In past articles we have talked about Disenfranchised Grief and Masked Grief in reference to suppressed grieving experiences. Our socialization process has ingrained in it the idea that we should ignore or hide our emotional feelings of pain and “put on a happy face.” We tend to discount our children’s seemingly unimportant grief issues and establish a pattern in them of suppressing feelings related to emotional loss.
This sets in place a pattern that is similar to failing to pay income tax, without advantage of programs designed to forgive some of that burden. In this case, delaying our action in dealing with grief means that it waits for a moment to surface. I am sure that many of you have had situations where something you see or hear triggers a memory from the past. We have used the example of a beautiful flower garden in the past to describe such an event. You see the garden and it reminds you of the ones your mother planted. It is a fond memory, until you start thinking about other moments in your relationship with your mother that you wish you had addressed. It might be things you wished had been different or better. Sometimes these memories related to conversations that were never finished. For some it is about dreams and expectations for a future that was different, because of her death or your estrangement from her. Suddenly and unexpectedly, all of those happy feelings that were generated by seeing that garden have lead you to a place of sadness. All of these things relate to the suppressed grief issues that you have delayed addressing.
If you discover that you have delayed grief issues in your life, you can take action to deal with them. The other option is to continue to suppress them and have those issues continue to trouble you with each passing year. Taking grief recovery action does not involve years of therapy, but rather taking a little time to put The Grief Recovery Method to work for you in your life.
The path you need to follow is spelled out in “The Grief Recovery Handbook.” This is a step-by-step guide to “completing” the unfinished business in relationships. It works, even if that relationship is one that is ongoing, but is less than everything you want it to be. It gives you the opportunity, once and for all, to deal with your emotional feelings of loss, so that they do not continue to cause you trouble. Best of all, if this is an ongoing relationship, it gives you the tools to deal with new events in the moment that they happen, rather than adding to your collection of delayed grief!
You can work through this process on your own, or you can contact a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist to assist you through this educational process. A Specialist can assist you in taking this action in a matter of weeks, rather than letting it continue to control your life in popping up when you least expect it.
You can settle for having a “name” to define your grief, or you can take action to move beyond its power. The choice is yours!
If you found this article helpful, we suggest you also read these articles from our searchable Grief Blog:
The Best Grief Definition You Will Find
Using the Grief Recovery Method in Ongoing Relationships
7 Signs You're Experiencing Unresolved Grief
Understanding Grief: Still the Most Off Limits Topic (Grief Myths Intro) - with video explanations
Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo
Thanks for posting this today. It's been 6 months since my Dad's passing and today something came over me. I'm realizing I am having a very hard time with it. I flipped out on my Mother because she keeps bringing up the fact that my brother and I were there to view my Dad's body when it was brought to the funeral home from the hospital as we were not at the hospital with him when he passed away. My mother chose not to view him there. I am at a loss for words now and have gotten to my breaking point. Please help me. Thank you.
stephen moeller, grief recovery specialist
Another possibility is that many people, who lose someone, become stuck in that time frame around their death, and have trouble enjoying their memories of that person's lifetime prior to that moment. They are constantly reliving that moment in time, and everything that relates to the death and the time frame immediately after the death. She may keep bringing this up because everything that happened them makes up the majority of her thoughts. You cannot force her to take grief recovery action, but you can take that action for yourself. Remember that we not only grieve relationships lost to death, but our relationships with people who are still in our lives. This is especially the case when it is a relationship that troubles us on some level. You might find it helpful to use the Grief Recovery Method and "The Grief Recovery Handbook" to work on your relationship with your mother, as well as your father. If you found yourself "flipping out," it sounds like there may be things that are incomplete with one or both of them. This is very normal! It is the part of grieving that is telling you that recovery actions are needed to help you get through this time of change in your family. If you take action for yourself, you will find that things your mother says will no longer have the power to upset you in the same way. Please feel free to contact me again if you have questions. I care! Steve
My gran has terminal cancer and I am visiting her almost daily. We are very close and I am trying so hard to be strong for her as I know that if she sees me get upset this will upset her and I don't want to do that. Our love for each other does not need to be spoken about as we both know it, I am finding it harder and harder to put on a brave face. I can grieve as soon as she passes and I know I will but is there anything I can do to suppress this grief at the moment? I know its not healthy to do but I desperately don't want to upset her
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