Why People Fail To Grieve

Listen to this obituary

There are many types of abnormal or complicated grief.

  1. Relational factors. What kind of relationship did the griever have with the deceased? The most frequent kind of relationship that hinders grieving is the hostile one. In some cases, the death may open old wounds and evidence unfinished business. In some relationships, we grieve for what we wished for and never have. Most people who lose a significant other will feel somewhat helpless at times, but this sense of helplessness does not come from an overly dependent relationship and it doesn’t last nearly as long.
  2. Circumstantial factors. There are certain circumstances that may make it difficult for us to bring our grieving to a satisfactory conclusion.

The first is when a loss is uncertain. An example of this is when a soldier is missing in action, or some other event precludes the producing of a body. Another circumstantial factor that makes grieving difficult is the situation where there are multiple losses such as a plane crash or some other accident kills many people at the same time (perhaps even members of the same family.) Losing several family members to death in a short period of time can lead to grieving overload.

  1. Historical factors. People who have a history of not handling loss well will have a greater likelihood of difficulty in handling loss in the present and future. One’s physical health can affect one’s emotional health and those with depressive illness run higher risks of developing complicated reactions to grief.

About twenty-five years ago, I underwent one hypnotherapy session. In it, I “remembered” standing at my front door as a lad of about 6-8 years old and waving goodbye to my parents who were backing out of the driveway to take my mother to the hospital. This was not an unusual event for her, as she often enjoyed poor health. But, if it was a repressed memory, it gave me a clue why I suffered through abandonment issues throughout my life, and this reminds me … …

  1. Personality factors. I am an introvert that can turn on an extrovert’s personality. In other words, I tend to do my grieving in private. I for sure will shed a tear almost exclusively in private. Some people are unable to tolerate the extremes of emotional distress, so they (we) withdraw to defend themselves against such strong feelings. Because of their reluctance to face and deal with these grief feelings, they (we) withdraw and short-circuit the process.

Another personality factor is the griever that lives the self-concept that they must be the “strong one” in the family. This is to their detriment. “Strong people” feel their feelings, but may not allow themselves to experience them, for a resolution of a loss.

  1. Social factors. Grief is really a social process and is best dealt with in a social setting where people can comfort and encourage one other. Yet some of us hide.

How’s YOUR grieving, hope, and healing?

Picture of Doug Greenway

Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at doug_greenway@yahoo.com.

Leave a Comment