And if grief is left unresolved, it will eventually hunt you down. It will take you to a place where you will have no choice but to look back, relive events, and seek a resolution to your pain.
So many of us carry around unresolved grief without even being aware of it, though. I know I sure did. But through much self-reflection and prayer, I now have a deeper understanding of the far-reaching implications my unresolved childhood grief had taken upon my life.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s, an era where openly discussing personal grief was hush-hush, where children were thought to be too young to understand grief, and this notion held me back from mourning the death of my nine-year-old brother.
As a five-year-old, I may not have been able to grasp the full concept of grief, but I certainly was aware of what was happening around me, and it was both confusing and frightening.
I have never forgotten the vision of my mother crying at my brother's gravesite. And I don't want to minimize how painful it must have been for her to bury her son because no parent should have to bury their child. But seeing my mother so sad in the days to follow was the beginning process of putting my emotions into the deep freezer (so to speak), and by doing so, I had frozen a part of my heart.
I still went on to function well in life. I held down a great career, raised two beautiful children. But I wasn't oblivious to what was happening in my body. There was always a feeling of disconnect in my soul, like a piece of me was missing. At times, out of the blue, despair would show up and grip my life, for no apparent reason, leaving me questioning what was wrong with me. Then when I lost my mother suddenly in 1987, grief had become complicated due to my frozen emotions.
Frozen emotions don’t go away; they only lay dormant in our innermost being, numbing us, and limiting the depth of our feelings, making any new experience with loss more complicated and prolonged. To heal, we must feel the pain. We must unthaw our emotions. And we must allow the unspoken parts of ourselves to emerge. Only then will be able to connect with our losses.
It was in this discovery I came to understand that grief still gripped the inner child in me, that the little girl frozen in time would be the key to my wholeness, the missing piece that my soul lacked. And by the grace of God, we are both thriving today.