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  • Navneet Kaur

Grief: Why It Can Manifest Decades After a Traumatic Event and What to Do

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Grief: Why It Can Manifest Decades After a Traumatic Event and What to Do

Grief is a natural response to loss, and it can affect us in various ways. While the intensity of grief often subsides over time, it is not uncommon for it to resurface unexpectedly, even years or decades after a traumatic event. This delayed manifestation of grief can catch individuals off guard and leave them wondering why they are still experiencing such profound emotions. Let's explore why grief can linger for extended periods and discuss strategies to navigate through this complex emotional journey.

Understanding Delayed Grief

Grief is a complex process that unfolds differently for each individual. It is influenced by various factors, including the nature of the loss, the person's support system, and their coping mechanisms. In some cases, grief may be suppressed or postponed due to external circumstances or the individual's own defense mechanisms.

1. Repressed emotions:

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, individuals may find it necessary to suppress their emotions in order to function and cope with daily life. This repression can be a protective mechanism, allowing them to survive and carry on. However, these buried emotions may resurface years later when triggered by a similar event or even unrelated experiences.

2. Unresolved grief:

Sometimes, the grieving process is interrupted or unresolved due to various factors, such as societal expectations, lack of support, or the need to be strong for others. When grief is not adequately addressed, it can linger beneath the surface, waiting for an opportunity to be processed and healed.

3. Milestone events:

Certain milestone events, such as anniversaries, birthdays, or significant life changes, can act as triggers for dormant grief. These events serve as reminders of the loss and can stir up unresolved emotions that have been lying dormant for years.

Navigating the Complex Emotional Journey:

If you find yourself experiencing delayed grief, it is important to remember that it is a natural part of the healing process. Here are some strategies to help you navigate this complex emotional journey:

1. Acknowledge your feelings:

Recognize and accept your emotions as they arise. Give yourself permission to grieve, even if it feels like an unexpected or belated response. Understand that grief has no set timeline and varies from person to person.

2. Seek support:

Reach out to friends, family, or support groups who can provide a safe space for you to express your feelings. Sharing your experience with others who have gone through similar situations can be immensely comforting and validating.

3. Practice self-care:

Engage in activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This may include exercise, meditation, journaling, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy. Self-care acts as a grounding force during the grieving process.

4. Professional help:

Consider seeking professional support from therapists or grief counselors who specialize in trauma and loss. They can provide guidance, tools, and a compassionate ear to help you navigate your grief journey.

5. Rituals and remembrance:

Create rituals or engage in activities that honor the memory of your loss. This can include visiting a memorial, writing a letter to your loved one, or participating in events that commemorate their life.


Grief is a deeply personal and individual experience, and it can resurface at any point in our lives. The delayed manifestation of grief should be seen as an opportunity for healing rather than a setback. By acknowledging and addressing our emotions, seeking support, and practicing self-care, we can navigate this complex journey and find solace and healing in our own time. Remember, you are not alone, and healing is possible even years after a traumatic event.

If you are experiencing delayed grief and are unsure of how to work through these feelings, you can always schedule a no-obligation consultation to explore how Safe Space Counseling might be able to help.

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Grief: Why It Can Manifest Decades After a Traumatic Event and What to Do

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