Can Grief Be Delayed?

Can Grief Be Delayed? When a loss happens in our lives we experience an array of emotions. Some of these emotions can be extremely debilitating and confusing as we embark in the grieving process. Still, many times we are not ready, consciously or subconsciously, to face these feelings and so we ignore them. We set them aside and continue living our lives, pretending things are OK. But…we are merely delaying our grief, and in the least expected moments, these feelings can surface in different ways, leaving us feeling even weaker and more confused asking yourself:

Why does this happen? Why do we delay our grief?

Is it a natural reaction of human beings to avoid experiencing pain and despair?

In my journey of assisting people facing losses, I have come to realize the phenomenon of delayed grief is common, and it happens for varied reasons. Sometimes we are numb, because the pain is too great and we unconsciously evade the realization of the loss and disconnect from our new reality. Other times, we get so busy trying to handle things related to the loss that we are left without the energy to grieve, putting our heartache “on the shelf” and saying to ourselves: I do not have time to deal with this now. I will do it later.

Still, you may start finding yourself becoming more irritable or snapping at people close to you. Maybe you will find yourself having problems concentrating or feeling lethargic, or getting easily upset. You may go through all these emotions without really understanding why, without realizing they have to do with the loss you have experienced, which is not being processed.

Furthermore, because grief is the natural response to a major loss, it is not limited to the loss of a loved one.

These are just a few examples of situations that may result in delay of the grieving process:

• The bereaved needs to take care of legal issues after the death of their loved one, such as an inheritance, or a trial, in the case of a homicide.

• In the case of a divorce, there may be issues with the custody of children or division of property.

• If there are health related issues, a greater focus may be placed on the surgery, the treatment, or trying to be strong in front of the family.

• In the case of a move, we may get so involved with the planning that we may not realize we will miss what is familiar and comforting to us.

If you have confronted any of these situations and are experiencing any of these emotions, listen to them and connect with your inner self. Keep in mind that when we delay grief it does not mean it has disappeared. It has only suppressed and may come to the surface in other ways that leave us drained and without energy. It is like a tsunami that comes over us and takes us by surprise. We may say what has happened? I was so strong before and now I am so weak… It is not that you are weak….you are grieving….embrace that grief, do not mask it or ignore it. Look at those pictures, write on your journal, or share your feelings with someone who can listen with an open heart. When we grieve….that is what matters the most.

But, first and foremost, remember that compassion starts with us. Be gentle with yourself.

Remember Your Life Has Meaning! Speaker, Author, Loss & Grief Coach


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