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Why do people fail to grieve?

Let us examine a few reasons why people do not grieve at the passing of a loved one.

  1. Relational factors:

Different variables define the type of relationship the person had with the deceased. I once worked with a woman whose husband passed after heart failure. She said she had endured years of abuse and neglect from him and felt no pain at his death. She said she could not bring herself to shed any tears or consider his death a loss.

2. Circumstantial factors:

The circumstances surrounding a loss sometimes determine the strength and outcome of the grief reaction. There are certain circumstances that may preclude a person's grieving. An example is a family who lost their teenage son to an overdose of drugs. Prior to his passing, they had spent a lot of money trying to get him off but he always went back. When they found him dead one morning, his mother said she felt no pain because she knew it would happen one day.

3. Personality factors:

Personality factors are related to the person's character and how it affects their ability to cope with stress. There are people who are unable to cope with stress so they bury their true feelings in order to defend themselves against stronger feelings. Nick's mother died when he was in the eleventh grade. Being one of the popular boys in school, Nick's jovial personality would not allow him to go into 'grief mode.' He suppressed his feelings and continued his activities with his friends as if nothing had happened. During one of our sessions, he said his heart ached but he did not want to be perceived as a weakling.

4. Socio-Cultural factors:

Grief is a social process and is best dealt with in a social setting in which people can support each other in their reactions to a loss. But there are some circumstances that nobody in that society wants to talk about. The first is a case in which the loss is socially unacceptable, which happens when it was a suicidal death. Family and friends of the deceased tend to keep mum about the circumstances surrounding the death. Sadly, this conspiracy of silence does not help the grieving process.

The second is a case where the death occured while being punished for a crime. Barbara's husband died in prison while serving a sentence. Though she missed him terribly, she could not grieve openly because, to the rest of the town, it was one less criminal to deal with. By six months after, her grief had turned to anger because she was not getting the support she needed. Her anger pushed people into the background and in turn, isolated her more. A few months later, she moved out of that neighborhood without a forwarding address.

Summary: Grievers need the support of the people around them. Whether it be suppressed or open grief, a loss is a loss.

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