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Mama_Cakes's avatar

What happens if you put off grieving the loss of a loved one?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (9824points) November 27th, 2012

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23 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If you try that it will eat your heart up from the inside out. I’ve lost a lot of loved ones. It hurts. But it’s best just to deal with it and don’t try to pretend it doesn’t.

JLeslie's avatar

It probably is not ideal, but you can delay. Sometimes it puts the person in a false sense of handeling it well, meaning they are not as unstable and sad as they thought they might be. Once they are allowed to grieve it can be like a ton of bricks and confusing since it is so far beyond the time of the incident.

I would think it isn’t very rare to delay grieving, because sometimes loss happens at a time when you must hold it together for either yourself or people you are responsible for, and so one carries on, pushes through, their obligations, until finally they can let go and mourn.

I’m not a psychologist as you know, it’s just my opinion on what I have witnessed.

hearkat's avatar

Grieving is a very complex process, and we all grieve differently for different loved ones, based on many factors. Setting expectations on others or ourselves on how and when we should grieve just makes a difficult situation that much worse. Sometimes there is a sense of emotional shock, and we instinctively shut down emotionally until we are strong enough to handle the overwhelming emotions. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

In general, when we try to control our emotions, that only gives them control over us as we expend so much energy in trying to resist or avoid our feelings. I have found that it is better to let the emotions flow when they present themselves and to give them consideration as we process them. Of course, there is a time and a place, and sometimes we are hit with emotion at an inappropriate time; then I find it helps to take a moment to ‘collect’ oneself, but to plan to spend time one exploring what happened later that day. This practice has helped me learn to use my emotions as a guide in making my decisions, rather than letting the emotions lead me to impulsive reactions.

marinelife's avatar

Whether you are ready or not, the grief will come out when it will.

Shippy's avatar

I don’t believe any one delays grieving. It’s not like a “to do” list for later. If it were so, it would be convenient. We grieve, or not, from the moment we realize that person is dead. We go at our own pace, some cry some don’t. But the stages remain the same. Shock, anger, depression and acceptance. I believe though they don’t always follow this pattern either, it can be shock, depression anger then acceptance.

gailcalled's avatar

In my personal experience, my body did not allow me to delay or put off. The feelings were too enormous to ignore or suppress. The only choice I had was to keep myself in a private place much of the time in order to feel uninhibited.

The very early hullabaloo and the sequence of events, once I got the news, was distracting and enabled me to get through whatever services and ceremonies I deemed appropriate. In my case, that was only several days of hyperbolic activity, close family, noise, confusion, food and being out-of-body.

I still deal with the grief, 16 years later, only less often, but at surprising times and places. A smell in the air can trigger it as can the sight or sound of a red-tailed hawk soaring and screaming.

“Handling grief well” is really a meaningless expression. Some would define that as rending of garments, gnashing of teeth and ululating at top volume. Others would not. Kubler-Ross’s list is not written in stone. It is a guideline only and should not be used as a checklist.

The only issue, really, is allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling The rest is distracting verbiage.

When I resumed therapy, about 7 months after the event I am referring to, I cried, I babbled, I was struck mute, I laughed, I shared letters, photos, family stories, condolences. The 50 minute-hour was always unpredictable. I walked in and let what needed to happen happen

Mama_Cakes's avatar

The rest of my family fell apart right after. We’re still not close.

I’m trying to rebuild my family (with my partner).

gailcalled's avatar

@Mama Cakes: Do you mean from each other as in estrangement or in the way they let their grief show?

janbb's avatar

I don’t think one has much control over grieving. It hits you when it hits you and sometimes when you think you are over it, it comes back up to bite you. I am finding this out personally through the loss of my marriage. On the other hand, I never went through a heavy grieving period from the loss of my parents and I don’t think I will ever have to. I loved them but we had (enough) closure and they were old and infirm.

CWOTUS's avatar

@Shippy FTW.

No one who can be called human can “opt” to delay grieving or most other natural processes. You may as well opt to avoid “digestion” or “breathing” because it is inconvenient to do those things right now. (Yes, you can consciously avoid breathing for a minute at a time, perhaps, if you have trained to do that.)

Your body may delay a digestion process because the blood that helps to facilitate that process is needed elsewhere more urgently. And you may “avoid” breathing due to, say, and electric shock or near drowning experience that has interrupted the breathing process so that it needs to be urgently restarted by others to enable your life to continue.

But that’s the thing: These processes can be “interrupted”, but not long “put off” by choice. And when those natural processes are interrupted, maladies of various types, up to an including death, can occur. No, it’s not likely that “interrupted grieving” will kill you as directly or quickly as interrupted breathing. Neither will constipation, if your digestion processes are interrupted too rudely or too long, but it can be damned uncomfortable, and in severe cases really can be life-threatening.

Shippy's avatar

@CWOTUS Not sure why you wrote that to me? I don’t think one can delay it. I am actually in mourning right now. I just feel exhausted tired, and yes been through the shock phase. It’s only been two days so, ugh! another sad long period ahead.

deni's avatar

I have had two people very close to me die. My grandpa, when I was about 12, and I was very sad and cried and the process was normal. My grandma died last year. She was awesome and we were very very close, she lived close to us growing up and was the classic fun grandma. I don’t know if it was just that I’m a different person now, but when she died, I didn’t feel very sad. She was pretty young, mid seventies, but she died of lung cancer and a million other complications from smoking cigarettes her entire life. At the time she died, I was doing a traveling job selling posters at colleges around the country with my then boyfriend. It was extremely stressful and I couldn’t have the worry about my grandma on top of this job that was going to end shortly anyhow. I thought I kind of “put off” the grieving to a more convenient. But I didn’t. I just wasn’t sad about it. I’ve never had a tolerance for smokers….I guess I didn’t feel bad because she did it to herself and I knew that. Plus she was basically a vegetable at the end. Also we found cigarettes that she had been smoking recently even though she promised my mom she had quit. It’s her life, she can do whatever she wants. I just had no sympathy for that type of thing. It was weird.

orlando's avatar

Another important thing to consider is that if you grieve right after your loss, other people in your family and social network will understand and support you through it. If for whatever reason you “put off” the grieving and start to grieve let’s say months or years from the time of your loss, you will most probably be on your own, as others won’t understand or be as compassionate about your process—to them your loss and grief will be something that belongs to the past.

janbb's avatar

@Shippy I believe @CWOTUS ‘s “FTW” (for the win) was directed t you and the rest was a general comment.

Bellatrix's avatar

@Mama_Cakes, I think you can try to suppress grieving but eventually you will grieve. Your mind and body will in a way force you to go through the process. I think trying to suppress this natural part of losing a loved one prolongs the pain. When my father died, my ex-husband would tell me not to cry and he would get upset every time I quite naturally got upset about my father’s death. I found myself trying to hold in the pain I was feeling and not to show my emotions. I feel, and this is only my perception perhaps, that as a consequence my grief lasted a lot longer. I also found I would burst into tears unexpectedly at times. I think this is a natural part of the grieving process but I also think it was made worse because I tried to stop myself being upset around my then husband.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Thinking about it now, I am really grieving the loss of my family.

hearkat's avatar

@Mama_Cakes: Grieving is about loss, not just death. So if your family became estranged after a death, it probably is grief for the loss of the family you once had, and for the loss of the one who was the glue that held it all together. It sounds like that was the final door to your childhood that shut… all the more to grieve.

You might be able to reconnect with others and redefine your relationship as the adult individuals you are now. It isn’t easy, and both parties have to be motivated to reconnect. But they may be going through their own grieving processes and might not be ready just yet.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

You hit the nail on the head, @hearkat.

OfAwesome's avatar

It comes naturally for people to greive over something lost whether it be in there heart or just a house hold item. Usually I would be greiving after the reality hits me that its actually gone from me and I can’t just sit around expecting it to fly back around and hit me in the face! I hate to admit it but I really hate reality! It always comes crashing in and fills the hole in my heart with greive and sorrow, an unwanted feeling. You cannot control when you greive or cry but you can choose whether to ignore it or do something about it. If you ignore it, you will be full of greiving and guilt forever in place of that missing thing. If you do something about it, in place of that missing and longing will be the gift of acceptance and you will be able to move on but always have that “thing” or person with you in your heart.
Hope this helped—just wait until your heart tells you to greive… believe me, you will know!

Nad92's avatar

My grandfather was my fav person in the world,my mom hid his death from me for 6 years!! I was 7 when he died!i sorta knew but never admitted it to myself. I found out by accident and I never cried so much in my life!its the hardest thing ever. -sorry for your loss

gailcalled's avatar


Did or do you still harbor some resentment or anger towards your mother for her behavior?

Nad92's avatar

Definately. Something so important and serious to be hidden from me for such a long time is just horrible. I dont understand my mom, i dont know if she did it out of protection or she did id for the extra attention she seems to seek so much ( not the best of moms ), i wish i had known earlier.

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