What’s unresolved grief?

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Unresolved grief can occur when a person is unable to move forward due to unresolved issues or feelings surrounding a loss. This can lead to prolonged mourning and associated problems such as depression or substance abuse. Seeking professional help is important in situations where grief cannot be expressed to friends and family.

Unresolved grief refers to a long process of grieving a person, situation, or relationship that is no longer there. While many people feel grief over a major loss, the process can be extended and made worse if unresolved issues, feelings, or other complications arise. People experiencing unresolved grief may have been unable to disclose important feelings or revelations about the situation, or may be unable to move forward due to ambiguous issues surrounding a disappearance or probable death.

Grieving is a normal process that people experience in different ways. Not only is the death of a loved one or the loss of an important relationship a very sad experience, but it causes a change of perspective for the bereaved person, who now has to learn to cope with a different world. This process can be difficult and contribute to many associated problems, including depression or substance abuse. Generally, however, the bereaved person will eventually adjust and learn to navigate the new world, and in time she may be able to feel resolved about the situation, even if the sadness never fully fades.

One of the most common situations that cause unresolved grief is when emotional issues have not been resolved by the bereaved and the person who has died or left contact. Secrets, pending arguments, and never-resolved misunderstandings can lead to prolonged mourning. The normal burden of grief can be augmented by guilt and the knowledge that things weren’t resolved before the death or departure of an important person.

The death of a child or young person can cause unresolved grief for close friends and relatives. Part of this complication stems from the fact that parents and friends have hopes, dreams and plans for the young person and his future that will now never come true. As in many unresolved bereavement situations, people may feel that it is objectively wrong for a person to die with so much unfulfilled things and a future full of promise. Parents may also fall into unresolved mourning patterns from the belief, wrong or not, that they have failed to fulfill their role as protector and have let down the dead child.

When a person goes missing, is kidnapped, or is listed as missing in a military effort, unresolved grief can occur due to a lack of true knowledge. The idea that a loved one might still be out there, alive and in need, can torture many bereaved people into a deeper and deeper spiral of grief and guilt. Additionally, some psychological studies show that people accept death better when physical evidence of death is presented; it can be an important part of starting the closing process.

If a bereaved person has no outlet for the expression of feelings, the grief may remain unresolved. A closeted person who loses a lover may have no recourse to discuss their pain and grief over the matter, for fear of getting caught. A teenager who has a miscarriage may not be able to talk about feelings of loss due to fear of punishment or discovery. Ignoring or hiding emotional pain can have serious consequences for both the bereaved and those around them.
It is important, in any situation where grief cannot be expressed to friends and family, to seek professional help. The internet can also be a great source of anonymous bereavement support, through support websites that don’t ask for personal details. Anyone experiencing signs of depression or suicidal thoughts should find immediate help from professionals.

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