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April 30, 2013
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This is one of the
articles in the Break the Cycle! self-improvement course. The
lesson aims to educate readers on healthy grieving basics so
they can spot and complete unfinished mourning of major
losses, and grow a pro-grief family..
33 years' professional
research and clinical experience,
I propose that a major unseen stressor in typical
troubled people, relationships, and families is
This seems specially likely in troubled (low nurturance),
divorcing biofamilies, and
First, clarify what
you believe now by answering this question..
This brief YouTube video previews what you're about to read. The video
mentions 8 self-study lessons in thius Web site. I have reduced that to
describes common behavioral signs of incomplete grief. Use this to broaden your understanding of
healthy and incomplete grief, and to assess yourself and/or others for this significant
This article assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to this nonprofit web site and the premises underlying it
If adults or kids lack good-grief
requisites, they may
get stuck in mental, emotional, and/or spiritual
of mourning. Such people often
display observable behavioral symptoms. The more symptoms an
adult or child has, the more likely s/he isn't done mourning important
losses from childhood or later.
Use this symptom-summary as a checklist
Seeming "forever" sad, angry, or depressed, or often feeling
numb or "nothing"
Symptoms of repressed
depression, or apathy.
One or more addictions
(Some) chronic pain or
Obesity and/or some
and/or bowel problems
or purging mementos of lost things, and...
Exaggeratedemotionalreactions to the losses or traumas of other people.
Incomplete grievers may have one, several, or all of these
symptoms. They may be episodic or chronic.
Each and all of these
behaviors are symptoms of the root problems:
ignorance of grieving basics (Lesson 3)
+ lack of
inner and/or outer
Here's brief detail on each of the symptoms above:
1) Seeming "forever" sad, angry, or depressed, or often feeling
numb or "nothing"
general, or about a loss (broken bond). People who always seem very intellectual,
unemotional ("flat") may be
grievers - or they may be unable to bond.
a loss itself ("Oh
wasn't that important to me") and/or...
feelings about the loss and
it's impacts ("No,
I'm not sad - just tired is all.")
The ultimate denial is of one's own denial.
is a common symptom of
depression, or apathy. It takes a lot of personal energy to repress
frightening emotions and awarenesses. Recovery pioneer John Bradshaw likens this to trying
to swim while holding a big beach ball under water. Therapist Virginia Satir suggested
it's like constantly holding a swinging kitchen door closed against a pack of starving dogs ...
to one or more of these:
activities- e.g. work; hobbies or sports; worship; committees;
socializing, TV, or personal computers; fitness and health; sex; cleaning and
organizing; shopping or gambling; hoarding; reading or "endless" education;
e.g. nicotine, caffeine, fats and/or sugars,
ethyl alcohol or other drugs or medications;
- e.g. save the world's environment, hungry, homeless,
states) - e.g. rage, conflicts, risks, religious ecstasy, or
sexual arousal; and/or addiction to...
addicts use one or more of these to temporarily numb or distract
from (medicate) relentless
inner pain. They (their well-meaning
false self) will
deny, minimize, or rationalize their
toxic compulsions until hitting true
and committing to personal addiction recovery.
Stable addiction "sobriety" is a requisite for
psychological-wound reduction. Some addicts
are never able to gain or keep sobriety because of their unawareness +
psychological wounds + a low-nurturance environment.
All addictions are a
clear symptom of major
family dysfunction, not just a personal problem. Their members often have trouble
More common symptoms of incomplete mourning...
6) Repeated avoidances.These can be verbal, mental, and/or physical. If the loss (or something associated or
similar) comes under discussion, a blocked mourner will often become silent or irritable,
tune out, try to change the subject, "get real tired," and/or leave.
They may also reflexively shun certain ...
remind them of what they've lost; and/or...
places(like former dwellings, neighborhoods,
cemeteries, churches, ...); and/or...
people (who remind the loser of what's gone,
how it got gone); and/or...
activities or rituals (holidays, vacations,
births, deaths, graduations,...); and/or...
mementos(photo albums, movies, music,
old letters, holiday ornaments, special clothing,...) that remind them of their
will often protectively deny, rationalize (intellectually explainwithout feelings)or minimize such avoidances.Typicalsingle-parent
families and stepfamilies abound with such painful reminders. Are there any such mementos in your life now?
Your kids' lives?
7) (Some) chronic pain or
illness- specially ones without clear biological cause. A growing number of
professional healers feel that recurrent asthma, migraine or other headaches, digestive or
colon problems, back pain, shoulder and neck stiffness or soreness, breathing or
swallowing troubles, panic attacks, nightmares, allergies, etc. are bodily signals
that vital emotions are being repressed. Unconsciously-fearful mourners will often
scoff at this or get angry (i.e. scared) if it's proposed.
Obesity and (some)
Obesity is defined by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) asweighing 30% more than appropriate weight for a person's body type per
credible charts like
Morbid obesity is weighing 50% or 100 lbs more than appropriate
Morbid implies this condition can be lethal. It's been said of
overweight people that "every fat cell is an unshed
tear." Adults or kids can numb the pain of unresolved loss (and other
things) by compulsive
overeating - specially of "comfort foods" - fats, sugars, and some
carbohydrates. Others are metabolically unbalanced. Griefwork can be far more helpful for
the former than endless dieting/regaining cycles, which can promote
shame, guilt, and eventual depression and despair.
problems like anorexia (compulsive self-starvation) or bulimia (compulsive binge-purge cycles) may
signal blocked mourning and deep shame.
Obesity may be a symptom
of childhood sexual abuse. This
shattering personal violation forces the massive
of innocence, trust, security, and Self respect in a child too young and
understand and protect themselves.
More common symptoms of unfinished grief...
9) Repeated anniversary ''depressions.'' Major apathy, sadness, sluggishness, sickness, sleep disorders,
irritability, or feeling gloomy "for no reason" may recur annually
around the time a major loss happened. This can appear to be (or be increased by) "seasonal
affective disorder" (SAD), where people rationalize recurring depression by missing sunlight "too much."
Some digestive and/or bowel problems. Many different organic factors
can cause such problems.Repressed grief may contribute to them
by affecting body chemistry in subtle ways. This merits a doctor's
opinion, tho many medical professionals may not be aware of the bodily
effects of incomplete mourning.
or purging mementos. People who obsessively display, revere, discuss, or protect, special reminders long after an agonizing ending can be blocked mourners. Such mementos
can include foods, music, clothes, pictures, rituals, furniture, letters, jewelry,
perfume, gardens, letters, and many more. Revering or
reacting to such reminders to perpetual excess is the key symptom
opposite may also signal blocked grief. People who compulsively throw away
of the lost person or thing can be avoiding the intolerable pain of
admitting and accepting the precious broken
bond. They may or may not be aware they're doing this.
12) Often having exaggeratedemotionalreactions to the losses or traumas of strangers,
acquaintances, animals, or fictional characters. Such reactions include uncontrollable sobbing, lasting
depression, intense rages, insomnia, obsessions, bodily reactions, and over-identifications
("becoming" the hurt one).
Add your own symptoms of
+ + +
mourners may have one or more of these symptoms and unconsciously hide or
disguise them out of repressed shame, guilt, and anxiety.This is specially true when
the key people around them are
disapprove of overt grief.
Having one or several of the symptoms doesn't
a person is blocking major grief. It justifies assessing for it.
Note that using these symptoms to diagnose unfinished or "complicated" grief
is a subjective judgment. Also note thatthe real problems to assess
wounds in the mourner and other family adults,
ignorance of good-grief
basics in family adults and key supporters,
personal and/or family
policies that discourage healthy grief, and...
lack of personal and/or family
permissions to grieve
blocked or incomplete grief is not the problem.
It is a
symptom of several problems with the
mourner's internal and outer
Notice how you're feeling now, and
where your thoughts go. Bottom-line questions: is it likely that
anyone in your family is significantly blocked in mourning key
Who? What are their symptoms? How does their blockage affect them and you
If you decide
some family members are blocked, see this article on useful options
for completing grief.
This Lesson-3 article proposes that
incomplete grief is a common
personal and family stressor, and causes observable behaviors. The
article identifies 12 common behaviors (symptoms) you can use to judge
whether someone isn't done mourning some important loss/es (broken
bonds). If they're not done, they may be at
risk of significant personal and social problems.
Unfinished grief stems from psychological wounds + ignorance of grief
basics + personal unawareness + living in an environment that
discourages healthy mourning. Once acknowledged,
these can be improved.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
do you need? Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with? Who's answering these
questions - your wise resident