Grief: Factors That Delay Closure


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In my other articles I have described the process of grief and how and why do we grieve over a loss. In this article I describe the factors that delay or disallow a person to bring the issue of a loss to a closure. When the closure does not happen, the person is pre-occupied with the departed person. This prevents the person from moving on in life. So the grief of this person may persist indefinitely.

In my clinical practice, I have come across two kinds of people in whom grief can continue indefinitely.

The first factor that delays completion of the process is Anger. When a person carries anger against the departed or dead person, the process of grief does not conclude. In all such cases it is better to work through issues of anger with the person first before starting grief work. For example I once saw a man whose father was an alcoholic. The alcoholic father used to be physically violent when he had consumed some alcohol. The son had a difficult time letting his father go. Only when the anger had been worked through, did he come to peace with himself and his father. If the anger would not have been addressed, the grief could not have come to an end for a long time. No amount of counselling or psychotherapy would have been of help.

The second factor that affects grief process is Fear. When a parent dies, for example, the children can carry the fear even after many years. Usually this would occur when the parent was authoritarian but there may not be any violence involved. Emotional abuse involves threat, rejection and neglect. People who are emotionally abused may have difficulties in concluding grief. Fear has to be dealt with first before the grief process can be concluded.

Most of the people would be able to complete their grief over a year. But some of them can do it sooner. The more a person is relaxed, the less time it will it take to finish with their grief. The more the person feels insecure in themselves, the longer it is going to complete the grief process. Anger and fear make a person feel insecure. These emotions when held on to, disallow a person to move on in life, by keeping them pre-occupied with the memories of the departed person.

Pradeep K Chadha is a psychiatrist who specialises in helping patients with meditation and imagery using little or no medication. He is the author of “The Stress Barrier-Nature's Way To Overcoming Stress" published by Blackhall Publishing, Dublin. He is based in Dublin, Ireland.

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