There are many different reasons we find it hard to let things go…dreams of wanting to be a different size, fond memories, thinking we’ll need things one day, anticipating life changes. But sometimes our grip on things is based on unresolved grief. It is like a different form of nostalgia and it’s something that could be overcome.
We often associate grieving with death, but really any kind of a loss can cause grief. Divorce, change in health status or physical abilities, marriage, moving, retirement, graduation, birth of a child. Even positive life events can generate feelings of loss and grief and increase our attachment to things. Nostalgia is fine, but when it starts compromising our present, there is a problem.
Unresolved grief is a result of unfinished business, getting stuck in loop of remorse, regret and disappointment, being unfulfilled in “what could have been” or “what could have been said or done.” The feelings may persist years after the event. It may be that you don’t become fully aware of the need for resolution until decades later.
You may be experiencing unresolved grief when you are trying to deal with stuff that you know is getting in your way but is just too painful to deal with…it triggers emotions that are overwhelming; pain, anger, sadness. Especially if the stuff has been there a long time.
- Boxes of leftovers from an “X” that feel unpleasant – even toxic — yet can’t bring yourself to deal with?
- An overloaded garage populated by tools from a beloved deceased parent
- A closet full of toys and games from a child who is moved out and moved on
What can you do about it?
- Recognize that we are socialized to avoid grief and loss, to ignore or repress lingering feelings of sadness. Often our friends and family, while well-meaning, are incapable of addressing those feelings of loss.
- In getting organized, we can face and name these feelings and try to “get under the hood” of our attachments. Sometimes that alone may shift your perspective.
- Don’t go it alone!
Grief support groups art generally are aimed at people who have experienced a recent death or trauma. It’s usually about providing a safe place to share feelings with others who have had a similar experience.
There is a specific form of counseling called Grief Recovery Method®. The goal of this method is to resolve the grief. This is a process designed to deal with all types of loss and bring you to a point of resolution of your grief. You can work with a friend or on your own, in a facilitated group, or one-on-one or virtually with a trained coach.
We are grateful to Tina Kopko, LMFT for her presentation which introduced our local chapter of Professional Organizers to the concept of unresolved grief.