Unresolved grief is more common that we think. And now with the Corona Virus changing life as we know it, the potential for unresolved grief and lasting emotional impact is great. But first, let’s clarify that grief for someone we lost is only one cause of lingering sadness. I grieved for my mother for 30 years, searched for her on the street, and sobbed when I saw other mothers and daughters having fun. Even shopping for clothes made me tearful because it was something we used to do together. My decades long reaction was beyond typical sadness, I had unresolved grief.

My First Experience In Grieving

My mom died of cancer a few years after I married, and three weeks before my son was born. I was in my 20’s. A few months later my husband quit his job and didn’t find another for nine months. All four events, marriage, death of a loved one, birth of a baby, and loss of a job are high stress. My coping skills always kick in when times get tough, but I didn’t stop active suffering about my mom regardless of the other changes in my life. She was my focused unresolved grief.

What Causes Unresolved Grief

People do get stuck in their losses, and it isn’t always a death. It can be a change of circumstance, or even marriage itself. And even more important, it can be a trauma like a sexual assault as a child, teen, or adult. It’s important to recognize what you’re feeling so you can take steps to lift the burden.

For me and the loss of my mom, one problem was I did not have the opportunity of a proper “goodbye.” Even though I had sat with my mom throughout her illness and was pregnant for nine months of it, she never gave me her blessing or wished me well with my baby.

She was not able to say goodbye, and she did not want me with her at the end. Doubly painful was the fact that my children grew up without a grandmother. This was cause for my grieving on their behalf, too. Grief is often about much more than just the passing because of the many extra feelings associated with it.

This is also true for job loss which has happened to millions of people because of the Virus shutdowns. Changes of circumstances, moving, not having enough food, or not going to school or work can all produce lasting grief and lasting emotional trauma. There are some 40 life experiences that can cause grief.

Grief in Covid 19

In Covid 19, so many of the stressors I experienced are happening right now with millions of people who can’t be with their loved ones at the end of life. When you don’t have a chance to say goodbye, the pain can feel excruciating. I, at least could attend my mother’s funeral. Others are deprived of even that comfort. For me, not receiving blessings from my mom for me and my baby were a lasting injury, but I also had wanted her to know that I was with her at the end. That felt like a lasting injury to her.

But look at the other traumas happening to so many people during this pandemic: New moms giving birth when celebrations aren’t possible. Not being able to get help from family members when you are most vulnerable. How about your or your husband/partner losing your incomes and being food insecure maybe for the first time in your life. These are only a few stressors that the grief cycle that could last decades. Grief about addiction is another kind of grief that can take hold and keep you stuck.

Although sorrow is a normal reaction, unresolved grief has a more traumatic impact. As a result it can have a negative effect on one’s life. You may be asking yourself, “How do I know if I have unresolved grief?”

Signs of Unresolved Grief

Although many of sufferers try to pretend that they are “over it” for various reasons, the following are some of the tell-tale signs that someone is grieving:

  • Preoccupation with sad or painful memories
  • Refusal to talk about the loss at all
  • Increase in alcohol, food, drug, or cigarette usage.Antisocial behavior
  • Overindulge in hobbies, work, or exercise activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Unable to have love relationships as an adult

How Children Express Unresolved Grief

  • Develop behavior problems
  • Have Fear of being alone
  • Become more aggressive
  • Perform worse at school

How Teens Express Unresolved Grief

  • Using drugs
  • Drinking Alcohol
  • Stealing
  • Have unprotected sex
  • Become accident prone
  • Withdraw from friends
  • Have difficulty completing schoolwork

Young children may show unresolved grief by developing behavior problems or expressing fears about being alone, especially at night.

If left untreated, the long term effects can be devastating to future relationships and every day activities, such as work and what used to be enjoyable hobbies. Here are some things that can be done to help resolve the unsettled feelings.

Validate Feelings

Everyone has a right to sad feelings. Even though others may not understand your feelings or fail to empathize with you, it is important for you to empathize with yourself. Depression can cause physical reactions, so it’s vital to know what’s hurting you and to address it directly. It is also important for you to empathize with children and teens who are suffering. Give everyone permission to process, naturally, the loss they have experienced.

Reach Out

No matter how small it may be, build a support network. Whether it is that one special friend who can listen without judgement, or an online group on social media. Always have someone to turn to if you need a shoulder to cry on or a new outlook in order to get you through a rough moment. Connections with people are the foundation of recovery. Use tools to help your children.

Some Causes Of Unresolved Grief

Unresolved grief can be caused by pretty much anything big or small. If something, someone, or an event was important to you. You may not even think something that happened long ago may continue to nag at you now. There are some 40 life events that can cause unresolved grief. Here are some:

  • Death of a spouse
  • Sexual assault
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Imprisonment
  • Death of a close family member
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Dismissal from work
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement
  • Change in health of family member
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Gain a new family member
  • Business readjustment
  • Change in financial state
  • Death of a close friend
  • Change to different line of work
  • Change in frequency of arguments
  • Major mortgage
  • Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
  • Change in responsibilities at work
  • Child leaving home
  • Trouble with in-laws
  • Outstanding personal achievement
  • Spouse starts or stops work
  • Begin or end school
  • Change in living conditions
  • Revision of personal habits
  • Trouble with boss
  • New working hours or conditions
  • Change in residence
  • New schools
  • Change in recreation
  • Beginning or ending church activities
  • Change in social activities
  • Minor mortgage or loan
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in number of family reunions
  • Starting a new eating habit
  • Vacation>
  • Christmas
  • Minor violation of law
  • Domestic violence
  • Loss of Trust, Approval, Safety and Control of one’s body

There is no definite point in time or a list of symptoms that define unresolved grief. Unresolved grief lasts longer than usual for a person’s social circle or cultural background. It may also be used to describe grief that does not go away or interferes with the person’s ability to take care of daily responsibilities. People with unresolved grief who do not seek treatment are more likely to develop other mental health and physical problems.


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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation. Leslie is a proud member of Rotary International.

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