The very simplest definition of delayed grief is grief that has been postponed.
People can experience this for many different reasons.
A parent may put off or set aside grieving because they are so busy caring for the needs of their children. They don’t take time to allow themselves to cry or sorrow.
A person in an accident in which others were killed often must work on healing their body. They might miss the funeral, therefore it might not seem real to them. It might be a long while before they can cope with the work of grieving.
Consider someone who experiences a violent death. The events surrounding such a death can be so horrible and their emotions so strong that they can’t face the level of pain they are experiencing, so they stuff it down.
So why is this a problem?
Can’t we just put it off and it will go away?
Unfortunately it won’t just go away.
Grief can begin to manifest itself physically such as unexplained headaches, ulcers, etc. It can also show mentally/emotionally - such as depression or unreasonable anger. Grief finally will work its way to the surface.
Something might trigger it – like the death of the family dog and all of the sudden Mom’s grief about Dad comes pouring out. She doesn’t understand why she is so upset about the dog. The dog’s death may just be the opening of the carefully constructed dam and every emotion just starts pouring out.
Sometimes grief can be delayed long enough that when we do start to experience it, we can’t think back far enough to figure out where it’s coming from. This makes it difficult to work through the bereavement process.
So if you are finding yourself or a loved one in the situation of experiencing delayed grief, what can you do to help yourself or them through this time?
1) Talk or journal about the death, your experience and how you are feeling.
2) Take a trip to the cemetery to make the death feel real/final. Many of the same grief work that you would do during healthy bereavement can be implemented now.
If you find that you are still having difficulty working through the grief journey on your own – consider seeking the help of a counselor who specializes in grief work!
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength….
It takes bravery to be vulnerable with another person.
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