Consequences of Suppressed Grief

By Tess Thompson

Grief work or grieving is a necessary process that one should go through in the event of any loss, be it death of a dear one or something else. Rituals like funerals and memorials are a common, necessary part of the grieving process that have helped people in expressing their feelings of sadness and sorrow by sharing emotions with family and friends. They also provide the much-required contact with death for those who joined such rituals to express their solidarity with the grieving family.

Things have changed over the years, and society has evolved in a manner where people grow up without an extended family or friends. One of the direct outcomes of this evolution is that people have very little contact with death, and find it difficult to cope with grief when death strikes someone close. Attending funerals of distant relatives and family friends actually prepares people towards accepting it as an inevitable reality.

Unresolved grief or its suppression can lead to serious consequences. There has been a lot of discussion about this, and many theories have been propounded on the process of grief. The mental health community is now exploring dimensions other than sorrow. Their focus is now upon the wider relationship between the comparative quantity, magnitude, or degree of grief and its suppression, as well as its overall affect on mental and physical health of individuals. Unresolved grief can cause various issues, including:

  • Stress- Unresolved grief can lead to a lot of stress. Reactions under stress include physical dysfunctions that can enhance one's susceptibility to disease and aggravate existing physiological problems.
  • Perception- While an individual's cognitive abilities are instrumental in conquering grief, the same abilities can be hampered by prolonged grief. This can lead to impulsive actions and hasty decisions that may prove to be harmful or lead to accidents.
  • Spiritual- A crisis of sorts occurs when there is an emphasis on suppressing grief rather than attaining a positive attitude for emotional wellness. Well-embedded assumptions and values are questioned. Questions like "why me" and "what did I do to deserve this" often lead to loss of faith and inner peace.

Besides an individual's own perception and reasoning, an equally significant part is played by the family and communal response to the loss. How one goes about controlling emotions also depends upon on the culture that one is born in, the influence that it has, and the available support system. These factors have a significant effect upon expression of grief and the ability to cope with the stress caused by it.

Denial of reality is dangerous, and refutation of a loss is no exception. Denial has far-reaching consequences that may surface as physiological or psychological problems. Grief should neither be denied nor suppressed. The sooner one accepts reality, the better it is for one's physical and emotional health.

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