What Is Unresolved Grief

15 March 2017 Written by 

I grieved for my mother for 30 years. I couldn't help it. I looked for her on the street, sobbed when I saw other mothers and daughters having fun. Even shopping for clothes made me sad because it was something we used to do together.

My mom died of cancer a few years after I married, and three weeks before my son was born. A few months later my husband quit his job and didn't find another for nine months. All three events, marriage, death of a loved one, and loss of a job are high stress. My coping skills always kick in when times get tough, but I didn't stop active suffering about my mom. People do get stuck in their losses and it isn't always a death. It can be a change of circumstance, or even marriage itself. It's important to recognize what you're feeling so you can take steps to lift the burden.

For me and the loss of my mom one problem was I did not have the opportunity of a proper "goodbye." Even though I had sat with my mom throughout her illness and was pregnant for nine months of it, she never gave me her blessing or wished me well with my baby. She was not able to say goodbye. Doubly painful was the fact that my children grew up without a grandmother. This was cause for my grieving on their behalf, too. Grief is often about much more than just the passing because of the many extra feelings associated with it. This is also true for job loss, change of circumstances, moving, etc. There are some 40 life experiences that can cause grief.

Although sorrow is a normal reaction, unresolved grief has a more traumatic impact. As a result it can have a negative effect on one’s life. You may be asking yourself, "How do I know if I have unresolved grief?" 

Signs of Unresolved Grief

Although many of sufferers try to pretend that they are “over it” for various reasons, the following are some of the tell-tale signs that someone is grieving:

  • Preoccupation with sad or painful memories
  • Refusal to talk about the loss at all
  • Increase in alcohol, food, drug, or cigarette usage.Antisocial behavior
  • Overindulge in hobbies, work, or exercise activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Isolation from friends and family

How Children Express Unresolved Grief

  • Develop behavior problems
  • Have Fear of being alone
  • Become more aggressive
  • Perform worse at school

How Teens Express Unresolved Grief

  • Using drugs
  • Drinking Alcohol
  • Stealing 
  • Have unprotected sex
  • Become accident prone
  • Withdraw from friends
  • Have difficulty completing schoolwork

Young children may show unresolved grief by developing behavior problems or expressing fears about being alone, especially at night.

If left untreated, the long term effects can be devastating to future relationships and every day activities, such as work and what used to be enjoyable hobbies. Here are some things that can be done to help resolve the unsettled feelings.

Validate Feelings

Everyone has a right to sad feelings. Even though others may not understand your feelings or fail to empathize with you, it is important for you to empathize with yourself. It is also important for you to empathize with children and teens who are suffering. Give everyone permission to process, naturally, the loss they have experienced.

Reach out

No matter how small it may be, build a support network. Whether it is that one special friend who can listen without judgement, or an online group on social media. It's important to have someone to turn to if you need a shoulder to cry on or a new outlook in order to get you through a rough moment.

Some Causes Of Unresolved Grief

Unresolved grief can be caused by pretty much anything big or small. If something, someone, or an event was important to you. You may not even think something that happened long ago may continue to nag at you now. There are some 40 life events that can cause unresolved grief. Here are some.

  • Death of a spouse
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Imprisonment
  • Death of a close family member
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Dismissal from work
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement
  • Change in health of family member
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Gain a new family member
  • Business readjustment
  • Change in financial state
  • Death of a close friend
  • Change to different line of work
  • Change in frequency of arguments
  • Major mortgage
  • Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
  • Change in responsibilities at work
  • Child leaving home
  • Trouble with in-laws
  • Outstanding personal achievement
  • Spouse starts or stops work
  • Begin or end school
  • Change in living conditions
  • Revision of personal habits
  • Trouble with boss
  • Change in working hours or conditions
  • Change in residence
  • Change in schools
  • Change in recreation
  • Change in church activities
  • Change in social activities
  • Minor mortgage or loan
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in number of family reunions
  • Change in eating habits
  • Vacation
  • Christmas
  • Minor violation of law
  • Loss of Trust, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety and Loss of Control of my body

There is no definite point in time or a list of symptoms that define unresolved grief. Unresolved grief lasts longer than usual for a person's social circle or cultural background. It may also be used to describe grief that does not go away or interferes with the person's ability to take care of daily responsibilities. People with unresolved grief who do not seek treatment are more likely to develop other mental health and physical problems.


For Reach Out Recovery By Leslie Glass


Read 130641 times Last modified on Monday, 22 May 2017 17:20
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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass is the winner of the American Society of Addiction Medicine 2016 Media Award for her groundbreaking documentary "The Secret World Of Recovery." She is a journalist, playwright, the author of 15 novels and the founder of Reach Out Recovery. She is the producer/director of "The Secret World Of Recovery," and the teen addiction prevention documentary "The Silent Majority" which was distributed by American Public Television to all PBS stations in 2015. Leslie is currently developing more websites and technology to further the recovery and healthy living cause.
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