How does the grieving process work in complicated relationships?

One of the hallmarks of psychological grief that people experience after the loss of a loved one is, as a rule, the feeling that what is lived next to the other is an unfinished story. That is, a story that did not lead to a real result.

And it is that even the relatives of a very old person or of a person who has been very ill for years tend to experience the death of that loved one as a false closure, a hasty and “artificial” way of ending the during this relationship.

However, when grief is produced by the loss of someone important to you but with whom a complicated and emotionally ambivalent relationship has been maintained, this agonizing experience intensifies even more. This is why, while it may seem like a paradox, grieving can become more painful when you lose someone with whom you have not maintained an emotional bond based solely and clearly on pure love.

In this article we will an examination of the characteristics of psychological grief in complicated relationships, and its implications in psychotherapy.

    What is mourning?

    We start by focusing on the concept of psychological grief. What is? In short, it is the psychological state of discomfort that appears after an event that we interpret as the loss of someone or something that was important to us: a house, a workplace, the university environment, its own beauty, a pet, an object of sentimental value for what it symbolizes, or, in the clearest cases, a friend, a relative or a couple.

    So, we can say that psychological grief is the consequence of “leaving behind” something or someone with whom we had a strong positive emotional connection. This is a consequence, in part, of the problems adjusting to a new reality in which we no longer have access to that person or element so important to us, and the challenge of emotionally managing the memories of what united us to this loved one. , place, physical characteristic or object.

    A part of the most common grief-related experiences are the following:

    • Uncontrolled crying as we remember experiences we would like to come back to
    • Tend to focus on the past and less on the present.
    • Constant comparisons between the reality that takes us through our memories and the one we live here and now.
    • Feelings of guilt for not having acted otherwise before this loss.
    • Feeling that we can’t live life the same way anymore.

    In most of the cases, the duel produces intense discomfort, but over the weeks it becomes more bearable until it reaches a point where it no longer significantly deteriorates the quality of life of those who suffer from it; however, in some cases it acquires psychopathological characteristics and it is necessary to undergo psychotherapy.

      Main characteristics of grief after a complicated relationship

      We have seen before that grief occurs when we find ourselves in a situation where we disconnect from a person, animal or aspect of daily life with which we felt very close, so that this loss overwhelms us emotionally because this connection was based on pleasurable emotions. or exciting and that we generally associate with the “positive” side of life: the pleasure of dining with a boyfriend or girlfriend, Christmas with grandma, the experience of playing with our pet … It’s true downstairs .

      It is sometimes difficult to simply consider as “positive” the bond which unites us with a person important to us.. This is very common when we have been through an unsatisfying or confrontational relationship, or when we have grown up in an unstructured family with parenting issues.

      Indeed, the experience of going through mourning following the loss of a person with whom you had a complicated relationship is very common in the case of a breakup: in many cases, this separation is experienced as a bitter moment that was preceded by an era of happiness with this person.

      In such cases, it is common for overlapping emotions that are seemingly contradictory, because on the one hand he was delighted to start this courtship or marriage, and on the other hand a series of frustrating, sad or just anxious events led to an outcome which, seen from the past, is undesirable. So how do we feel about this loss?

      So, if they have in common almost all cases of grieving for leaving behind a complicated relationship, it is the clash between emotions that seemingly stretch to opposite sides, and which produce a feeling of instability. sentimental and even intellectual (since it is difficult to explain what happened). Let’s see what are the main psychological elements of this process.

      1. Stronger feelings of guilt

      Dissatisfaction between what could have been and what ultimately was the relationship many people feel very guilty about not being able to make this relationship positive with those they leave behind.

        2. Anxiety about the lack of one way to interpret the relationship

        Because in a complicated relationship there is usually some kind of confrontation or conflict of interest, it’s hard to be sure our version of events is correct. This is very significant, given that in grieving human beings tend to seek a stable way of interpreting and recounting our memories of what has been experienced next to this person.

          3. Feeling of dissociation from the person left behind

          In grief caused by complicated relationships, it is more common for the person to notice that the person you really separated from and the person you remember and recreate in your imagination are different, and that the latter “is not reliable” because it is a resource for self-deception.

          Would you like to benefit from professional psychological assistance?

          If you are going through difficult times in your personal life, in a family relationship or as a couple, we invite you to contact our team of professionals.

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