Unresolved Grief
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Unresolved Grief

Unresolved grief is at the core of most emotional problems today. If your environment is too unsafe or unloving, you can't let down and let grief have its way. And the only way past your losses is right through the heart of grief. Grief is one of our instinctual needs, like eating.

Losses come in all shapes and sizes. The obvious ones are humiliation, abuse, a significant setback, rejection, etc. Less obvious are neglect, not being allowed to be a child, lack of a good role model, being cursed at, etc. Guilt is a loss of righteousness.

First thing we do is drop into denial as a defense mechanism. We minimize what happened. We consciously or unconsciously forget what happened. We delude ourselves that it didn't happen. This takes the soul-crushing burden off of us, so we can still function. That gives way to magical thinking. If I just try something hard enough, maybe the loss will go away. Maybe we can just pretend that it didn't happen and no one will know. Maybe if I keep myself preoccupied enough, I won't have to face the loss. You may feel panicky.

This gives way to anger. I DON'T want to face it! Why did this have to happen?!? Whose fault is it?!?

This gives way to mourning. The sobs and tears flow. You talk about it to someone who understands and accepts you, anyway.

This gives way to depression and aloneness. The sun no longer shines. The subconscious is grieving.

This gives way to resignation and acceptance. Things become partly cloudy. Time to get on with life.

The grief process can be stopped at any point in the process. But it cannot be bypassed. My own father had been conditioned not to cry or get angry. So when his mother suddenly left, he could not go through the stages of grief. He was stuck with unresolved grief and anger for 75 years. And none of the other losses in his life could go past the Big One, either. When my mother died, he killed himself with booze in five weeks.

I know a woman who lost her mother and vowed to herself that she would not resign herself to her death, in honor of her mother. She was plagued with crying jags and depression the rest of her life.

I know of men who were conditioned not to cry. So they are stuck in the anger stage. One man I know periodically goes into a bar to pick fights. It is an outlet for the anger. Another man is very judgmental and critical. Polite anger.

I know of people who are too terrified of their trauma to even start to face it. In many cases, someone justified the abuse as "normal". So, the whole thing is left in the province of the subconscious. But the subconscious has its own ways about things. It will tell the story through psychosomatic & psychogenic ailments. It will tell it in metaphor through your mouth or hands, "impulsively" saying or doing things. It will set up a role-play, manipulating people around them to play out the parts in a metaphorical reenactment of the original incident.

I know of people who can't go into the angry stage, but stay in the magical thinking stage. We all know them. They are running around in a manic frenzy, running from the unmentionable; skiing, flying, dancing, running, partying, etc. They will read with the television on for background noise. They will pack all their waking hours with church activities. They go to bed late, when they can fall immediately to sleep from exhaustion, too tired to think. Mood altering substances were made for these people. If they end up an inpatient in a hospital, look out!

To bring healing to these people, we need to pray God's love into their lives, so the grief process doesn't appear so threatening. We need to give them permissions to dump on us, as they go through the stages. When they hit the mourning stage, we need to reflect back to them that we understand what they are feeling, and we still care.

We need to remember that if someone refuses to progress, there is nothing we can do about it, but pray for them.