Losing a loved one can cause deep pain. While there are many different ways to cope with and express grief, sometimes it can feel difficult to fully express the complex emotions surrounding a loss. In these cases, individuals are at risk of developing silent grief, an isolating condition that makes dealing with loss even more difficult. We'll explain what silent grief is, how to recognize it and ways to cope with it.
What Does Silent Grief Mean?
Silent grief, also known as disenfranchised grief, occurs when individuals feel they need to carry their pain alone and hide their emotions from the people around them. It usually occurs when a person feels others won't be receptive to their pain.
Silent grief can occur for several different reasons. The most common causes of silent grief are when:
· The type of loss isn't acknowledged or is stigmatized.
· The loss isn't seen as significant or important to others.
· The circumstances of the death are denied or questioned.
· The loss and feelings surrounding it are judged by others.
Those suffering from silent grief tend to isolate themselves, compounding the loneliness many feel after losing a loved one. As a result, people with silent grief are at risk of developing depression or prolonged grief disorder from a lack of support, connection and emotional validation.
Ways to Recognize and Understand Silent Grief
The factors that contribute to silent grief can be implicit and explicit. Sometimes, it's even self-imposed, all of which makes recognizing silent grief in yourself and others challenging. In addition to expected feelings of sadness, anger and guilt, symptoms and signs of silent grief may also include:
· Exclusion from mourning
· Social isolation
· Substance misuse
· Emotional numbness
Addressing the Pain of Silent Grief
Grief happens in a series of stages, but how you experience loss and process emotions varies from person to person. Since those experiencing silent grief tend to self-isolate, they usually have difficulty navigating emotions, which can intensify negative thoughts and feelings.
If you or someone you know is struggling with silent grief or any type of grief, consider these coping tips:
Find a way to express what you're feeling
When a loved one passes, many rituals allow us to process our emotions, find closure and begin to heal. Whether it's the chance to say goodbye at a wake or share a favorite story or memory during a funeral, these rituals allow us to acknowledge the loss. If silent grief prevents you from participating in ceremonies like these, you can find your own way to mourn.
For example, you might write a letter to the person to say goodbye, plant a tree in their honor, play their favorite songs or make a collage of photos and memories you shared. Taking time to understand how a loved one may have wanted to be remembered, and what’s important to you when honoring their life and spirit, can help you to process your grief and start your healing journey.
Seek support from others who understand your loss
If you feel unheard or unseen by friends, family and loved ones, don't despair. It may be hard for them to know what you're going through if they haven't gone through it themselves. Consider joining a dedicated grief and bereavement support group. There are many different kinds of groups that offer specialized support depending on your loss. Doing so will allow you to find a safe place with an understanding community to share your story, explore your feelings and begin healing.
Online forums, like The Love Always Project's Community Forum, can also offer a place for you to remember your loved one and find resources to help you cope with your loss.
Get professional help
We all process grief differently, and some of us are unable to do so on our own, especially when dealing with silent grief. A mental health professional or trained grief counselor can help you come to acknowledge your loss while validating the complexities of your emotions and giving you the tools and support you need to work through them.
Processing grief isn't easy, but it's important. If you need immediate support now or are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) — it's free, confidential and available 24/7, 365 days a year.
At The Love Always Project, we recognize grief as a normal reaction to loss, but we understand it's a personal one that can present itself in many different ways. If you or someone you know recently lost someone, our grief, loss and bereavement resources can help. We believe that healing can begin when we're ready to acknowledge the complex emotions we're feeling. Learn more about our mission to help others cope with loss and discuss end-of-life issues: Join the movement.