How unresolved grief can impact our life

How unresolved grief can impact our life

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The feelings and emotions of bereavement might also be observed in a relationship break down or redundancy. The common thread that runs through each of these experiences is loss. With loss come feelings that are inextricably linked to the attachment with the person or ‘thing’ at the heart of the experience.  

Why is loss so painful?

To fully appreciate the impact of loss and the feelings associated with it, one must understand the significance of attachment.  Without attachment, there would be no sense of loss.  

When we experience loss, we lose an emotional bond to someone or something in which we’ve found comfort; a parent, partner or job for example, and in the case of losing a child, providing comfort as a caregiver. The emotions felt are a stress reaction to being separated from this comforting part of our life that now feels like a threat to our well being. Close attachment relationships are not always loving though and this can be a cause of emotional conflict for those dealing with loss. 

Similar physical and psychological reactions can be seen in clients who have experience a loss through bereavement, divorce or redundancy. Clients are often surprised that their physical pain and health issues are related to their grieving. Such physical symptoms likely to be presented include; a tightness in the chest with large in takes of breath or sighing, a hollowness in the stomach, fatigue and general weakness in the body, all of which are indicative of stress and should be checked out by a GP. Stress can also manifest in inflammatory conditions; rheumatoid arthritis for example or digestive issues such as IBS. 

An initial reaction to loss is when the brain translates the stress of grief into a chemical reaction. The pituitary gland is stimulated to produce a hormone called ACTH. This is a protective reaction which makes the body ready to do battle against a perceived threat; separation in this case. The ACTH then activates the adrenal gland to produce cortisone. In the case of prolonged grieving, the stress is continuing, and so more and more cortisone is produced.  A high level of cortisone inhibits the production of serotonin which is the ‘feel good’ hormone and causes fatigue, digestive and respiratory issues. 

Emotions can run very deep in a grieving client as they come to terms with their loss. Feelings of longing and numbness parallel those of shock, a gut wrenching sadness and disbelief.  

Feelings connected to loss can be difficult for a client to comprehend and make sense of so they might ask a therapist to help them to unravel their thoughts and emotions. 

Emotions that can be rooted in loss include: 

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness 

If you are holding on to grief and it’s impacting your life, counselling can help you to move on. Get in touch to book a consultation.