By Stephanie Reck
Unresolved grief is different than normal grief. With grief there is closure eventually, such as with a death of a loved one, but with unresolved grief there is no closure. Over time, the unresolved grief may lessen but that does mean there has been a recovery from the loss. Some examples of unresolved grief could be having a child that is addicted to drugs or alcohol, an adult child that rejects their parents, infertility, having a missing family member or having a disabled child. Not being able to have closure can cause a host of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Unresolved grief is complicated grief, in that there is a need to still keep hope alive but it also interrupts the mourning process. This can feel like a wound that never heals. As a mother of a prodigal child and having experienced unresolved grief after 10 years, I began searching for ways to heal effectively. At some point, I believed there was no hope and that I would continue to live in grief. I honestly do not believe that is God’s plan.
Unresolved grief can cause you to feel stuck and unable to move on with your life.
Unresolved grief affects current and future relationships. You begin protecting your heart from any further hurt, which means relationships suffer. Unresolved grief is usually at the root of fear about new relationships. One may also experience constant fear of loss, anger/cynicism, guarded emotions, helplessness, loss of identity and chronic depression. Issues need to be resolved before you can begin to have healthy relationships. You may need to write a letter to your loved one expressing how you feel, but then you may choose to burn that letter or bury it.
People who experience traumatic loss are more susceptible to developing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and can suffer from psychological stress.
Some symptoms of trauma related stress:
Nightmares, trouble sleeping, being on edge/easily alert, low energy, feeling depressed, memory problems, feeling overwhelmed by the smallest of tasks, feeling irritable/agitated, fearful of the future, feeling emotionally numb, withdrawn and disconnected, and relying on alcohol and drugs to ease the pain.
Healing from unresolved grief and any trauma related stress starts when we acknowledge the loss and accept the loss. Part of acceptance means letting go. Share your story with someone who you can trust, but then take it to God. Tell God exactly how you feel. Ask God to bring healing to your unresolved grief, and help with moving on with a new life. You are not betraying your loved one if you move on with your life, and it does not mean that you do not love them.
Pray that God gives you emotional resiliency.
Being resilient means to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens (able to return to an original shape). Emotional resilience simple means being able to adapt to stressful situations or crisis.
Emotionally resilient people get knocked down, but they get back up quick. Emotional resilience can be learned, but I believe that Jesus can aid in that learning.
Emotional resilience is a must in dealing with unresolved grief.
Emotional resilience means that you accept that you cannot change your painful situation. Resilient people are characterized by an ability to experience both positive and negative emotions after a difficult or painful situation. Losses are mourned, but emotionally resilient people find the potential redeeming value in most challenges. Resilient people always find the silver lining in the most painful or difficult of circumstances.
When adversity strikes, focus on what you are thankful for, and this will boost your resiliency, and choose to focus on what is positive and good in your life. Taking regular breaks, nurturing, and taking care of yourself and doing things that you enjoy, regular exercise, laughing, being kind to others and yourself, social support, and continuing to learn, can help build resiliency as well.
You cannot control everything that comes at you, but you can control how you react to it.
Putting our hope in people, will almost always lead to disappointment, but placing our hope in Jesus will never disappoint.
The navy SEALs have a saying: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Learning to be uncomfortable at times instead of running and escaping will force you to learn from the situation that is causing you pain. Resilient people learn and grow from pain and challenges. Resilient people who need to survive the harshest situations and still accomplish goals (like POW’s, Special Forces units and Nazi holocaust survivors like Corrie ten Boom) balance a positive outlook with a realistic world view. Emotional resilient people do not remain focused on the negative, and they tend to rapidly disengage from problems that appear unsolvable. Emotional resilient people face their fears, they do not let fear overpower them.
PTSD was mentioned in this article, but someone can also experience the reverse: post-traumatic growth. Many people who experience hardships and get through them properly can come out stronger not weaker!
Stephanie Reck, LMSW, LBT,BCCC. Christian counselor, author, speaker, and teacher. Stephanie has a passion to bring hope and encouragement and to see people made whole.
Contact Stephanie @ [email protected]
[email protected], Hope Ministry. All Rights Reserved.
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