Last week’s blog talked about loss and losses. In this week’s blog, I will deepen our conversation by describing what I call “Disguised Grief”.
As I wrote last week, most people associate grief, which I typically describe as sadness, helplessness, anger, or disappointment, with more immediate or present-day losses like relationship losses or the death of a human or pet.
Yet I believe there is a deeper level of grief that is connected to our life experiences during childhood and even through adulthood. If this type of grief remains unaddressed by being pushed back into the recesses of our minds, it can lead to such feelings as bitterness, resentfulness, grudges, and, eventually, soulful depression.
I am discussing this different kind of grief because it is one that most people don’t talk about or don’t even realize they experience.
It’s what I call “Disguised Grief”.
Disguised grief might appear as leftover anger, bitterness, blame, cynicism, envy, grudges, hostility, jealousy, negativity, pessimism, regret, resentment, desire for revenge, sarcasm, self-hate, or some other longstanding pain.
It also might involve facing what your childhood was (or was not) or what your adulthood is (or is not) and dealing with the difference between what you needed, what you wanted, what you dreamed of, and what really occurred.
After many years of clinical practice, I started to realize that when clients described memories associated with the gap mentioned immediately above or used any of the fifteen words listed a moment ago, both the memories and the words acted as signals that guided me to the “emotional stuff,” or unresolved pain, hiding behind these experiences, feelings, or reactions.
When I followed the signals, they led me to the pain – pain that I have since identified as grief – disguised grief.
If you stop to think about it, bitterness or resentment, for example, maybe more toxic versions of grief (sadness, helplessness, anger, and disappointment). It’s as if you are blending one or more of the eight difficult feelings with some degree of ill will or hostility.
The next step for you to take would be to simply identify if any of the grief signal words relate to you. Stop and think about what memories and or feelings may be attached to whichever words you identified.
If you’re up for it, I would encourage you to grab a journal and reflect on this idea of possible grudges, bitterness, and leftover pain – or whatever you experience – as disguised grief, and what that means to you.
This idea of disguised grief is intended to help you make sense of difficult life experiences. If you are interested in exploring these ideas I think it will be important for you to intentionally plan for time to reflect and to write. If you have questions, please send them my way.
Next week I will highlight another way to identify disguised grief and the week following I will provide questions to consider to help you move through disguised grief.