6 Things You Should Know About Inhibited Grief

Grief comes in all different forms, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to cope with loss. Sometimes, the intense feelings impact you immediately. But other times, it may take much longer to feel the full effect.

Inhibited grief refers to the suppression of emotions associated with loss. Although it’s a typical response, it can stunt your healing process and result in added emotional distress. Let’s get into what you need to know.

What Is Inhibited Grief?

Inhibited grief can happen when you block the emotions associated with loss. This process can happen either consciously or unconsciously.

But it’s common when the grief feels so overwhelming or painful that you feel scared to face it. This doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s your mind and body trying to protect you from emotional harm.

What Happens If You Have Inhibited Grief?

Inhibited grief looks different for everyone, but avoidance is the most common symptom. Rather than confronting the thoughts and emotions with loss, you may feel entirely numb. Or you might convince yourself that you feel “fine.” But even if you don’t realize it, the grief shows up in other ways. Here’s what you can expect.

You Will Likely Experience Physical Symptoms

Even if you don’t feel the full gravity of your loss, the body holds and stores this trauma. As a result, you may develop symptoms like:

  • stomach aches
  • muscle tightness
  • headaches
  • body tension

If you already have chronic pain, it may feel even more severe. Similarly, you might notice other physical symptoms like fatigue, a sense of heaviness in your body, and significant changes in your appetite.

You Can Experience It for Losses Other Than Death

You can experience inhibited grief over any loss. This can include breakups and divorce, losing your job, or experiencing ambiguous loss. But, at the time, you might not register these moments as actual losses. Instead, you may just categorize them as inconveniences.

That said, if it’s inhibited grief, you may feel a profound rush of emotions several months after the event. Other people may be surprised, especially if they assume you had already processed this experience.

You May Have Inherited It From Your Family

Your family provides the blueprints for how you identify and process emotions. So, if, for example, you were taught that it was weak to cry, you may have internalized that belief. Or, if you saw your parents act strong and tough, you might assume you need to take on that persona in your own life.

Families can continue reinforcing grieving styles throughout generations. For example, you can see how people interact or discuss loss at funerals. Those who have inhibited grief will often make logical comments like, They’re in a better place,¬†or,¬†Everyone has to go sometime¬†in response to emotional expressions.

You Will Still Move Through the Stages of Grief

Inhibited grief doesn’t prevent you from experiencing feelings of anger, sadness, or betrayal. It only postpones it.

Eventually, whether you’re ready or not, you will start feeling those emotions. The trigger could be anything. You might hear a song that reminds you of your loved one, and you realize you’re sobbing alone in the car. Or, you may find an old document from work and experience a seething rage over how your boss fired you.

The triggers (and subsequent feelings) may surprise you with their intensity, and you might try to suppress them all over again. But, at this point, it often feels impossible to turn them off.

You’re Likely to Experience It When You Have Bereavement Overload

Bereavement overload can overwhelm your mind and make you shut down completely. This is common when someone has a history of complex trauma- they can feel conditioned to power through difficult circumstances.

As a result, you might assume that you’re inherently immune to emotion. You may even believe you’ve experienced so much loss that more of them can’t hurt you.

You Might Be Self-Medicating Your Feelings

Rather than fully experiencing your feelings, you might be numbing them. Self-medicating comes in many forms, but some of the more common methods include:

  • drinking alcohol
  • using mood-altering drugs
  • compulsively shopping or gambling
  • having compulsive sex
  • overeating or binge eating
  • compulsively exercising

Keep in mind that you might not connect that your compulsive habits have anything to do with grief. But the issues often reinforce one another. So, the more you try to suppress how you feel, the more the feelings try to come out. This cycle then triggers you to want to escape them as best you can.

Final Thoughts

Grief therapy offers a nurturing space to talk about your feelings and heal from your pain. No matter where you are in this process, I am here to support you. Loss hurts, but you can start feeling better. Contact me today to learn more.



4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

kara@hartzellcounseling.com
(512) 988-3363

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