Delayed grief is a postponed form of grief and a completely natural reaction after losing someone. This complex grief reaction can take some time to surface, be it a week, a month or even years after a death.
For many people, it is not uncommon to initially repress feelings of grief after a death, only for these feelings to manifest themselves at a later date. Unfortunately, those experiencing delayed grief are often reluctant to speak to people about how they’re feeling. This is usually because time has passed since family and friends experienced such emotions.
Why do we experience delayed grief?
Grief affects everyone differently, and delayed grief is no different. If losing someone has come as a sudden shock to a family, the immediate grief can be too devastating to manage, and therefore either subconsciously or consciously repressed.
For some people, they are viewed as the strong member of the family, the one who needs to hold the family unit together and be there for everyone else at such a trying time. Although an invaluable support to others, this can result in not having the time to grieve yourself, resulting in delayed grief.
Unfortunately, the day-to-day eat/work/sleep routine doesn’t stop when someone has passed away. Someone may have significant life events to deal with whilst attempting to grieve, such as pregnancy, a divorce, major work event or anything that will have prevented the typical grieving process.
In each of these circumstances, the grief has been somewhat buried beneath the surface, often reappearing if triggered by the loss of another or even something minor that would otherwise be insignificant.
What are the signs of delayed grief?
If the initial feelings of grief are suppressed, it can later present itself in various forms. It is also important to remember that everyone grieves in different ways; something that might signify delayed grief in one person may not signify it in another.
Read below for common signs of delayed grief:
Feelings of depression
Anxiety and depression are common in those experiencing delayed grief, causing someone to struggle with their everyday routine and feeling hopeless. Another sign is feeling very tearful, enduring uncontrollable sobbing and unexplained headaches.
A yearning for their loved one
Another symptom of delayed grief is being consumed by the thought of the loved one that has passed, causing elements of distress.
As this feeling of grief is delayed from an earlier time, some of the emotions a person might experience can seem disproportionate to the situation. Someone could be facing a period of unexplained sadness and anger that is almost out of nowhere.
Similar to feeling unexplained levels of sadness or anger, a person may also find they are going through a bout of mood swings. Grief can bring about a storm of emotions, causing those experiencing it to go from hysteria to irritability and feeling numb.
What do I do about delayed grief?
If you’re struggling with how to deal with delayed grief, there are lots of things you can do to help get you back to your normal self.
- Avoid alcohol – although drinking may feel like an instant relief at such a trying time, it will likely make you feel worse long-term.
- Talk to people – friends and family often have your best interests at heart. Delayed grief can be isolating, so talk to those close to you and tell them you’re in need of some support.
- Look after yourself – when we’re going through an emotionally tough time, such as grieving, it is common for us to stop caring about ourselves. Eat three nourishing meals a day and ensure you’re getting lots of sleep.
- Make time for yourself – you have likely been avoiding spending time with your own thoughts, but this is an important part of the healing process. Take some time off work or the usual responsibilities and have some time, whether it’s meditating or just having a long bath.
- Bereavement support – Ask your GP if they have any recommendations for local support groups or one-on-ones.
There is no shame in asking for help when it comes to grieving. Whether it is initial grief or delayed, your emotions are valid and there is support available. It is important to take steps towards healing yourself so that you are able to live your life to the full. If you or someone you know may be experiencing delayed grief, find out about your local support groups.