Sometimes mourning does not occur after a loss. Perhaps a child is excluded from grieving and mourning because it is believed the child will not understand or is being protected. A parent with young children may not feel able to mourn because of the demands of parenting. It may be that we have responded to societal expectations by “bucking-up”, and avoided attending to our grief. Whether one of these, or another reason, mourning can be put off, and the grief goes unattended for many years.
The bereaved may suffer long term symptoms when mourning does not take place. Grief may become depression, unhappiness, loss of meaning and purpose, fearfulness, anger, and feeling alienated. Unsatisfying relationships, feeling worthless, alcohol and substance abuse, psychological and social problems, diminished physical health, and collateral losses may occur. When mourning does not take place, and secondary symptoms develop, the connection to the original loss and grief may be lost.
You, and others, may not realize there is a relationship between the past loss and the secondary symptoms you now suffer. It may seem like the grief has passed, and it is too long ago and too late to mourn. You may question the relevancy and efficacy of mourning after many years. In fact, mourning is effective even if it is delayed. It may be different, and perhaps more complicated because of the lapse of time and secondary symptoms, but it still has the power to alleviate suffering.
It is often helpful, if not necessary, to enlist professional help when mourning has been avoided. The process remains the same. We must identify who and what has been lost, and admit that we have been affected by the loss. We must acknowledge that the person who died and the death are important, and that grief is a legitimate reaction despite the passage of time. We must find our way back to the pain of our grief, and devote time to mourning.
Mourning honors the connection to the deceased, our loss of her or him, and facilitates the healthy progression of grief. It is never too late to mourn!
Read more about Mourning on the following pages.