5 Reasons You're Sad & Don't Know Why — And What You Can Do About It

That unexplained pain might be grief for something you never had.

Hidden Grief Can Heal Fernanda Reyes/Shutterstock

Do you suffer from hidden grief?

Everyone holds internal stories and expectations of the way they want their lives to turn out and then, life happens.

When we think of grief, we often think of having to mourn a person or a death. But we also grieve major disappointments in life, setbacks, or the shattering of long-held life dreams or dreams of love.

RELATED: The 5 Stages Of Grief — Plus 6 We Don't Realize Are Part Of The Grieving Process


Dialogue in your head may go something like, "But this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be?" or "How did I get here? How could this have happened? What do I do now?"

You can feel like you have to move on quickly from emotional pain or find ways of distracting yourself and figure it out on your own.

So you stuff the feelings down in order to carry on, but this only postpones the pain. Whatever you resist will persist.

Many times, unmourned, hidden grief can be an overlooked cause of low-grade ongoing unexplained depression, sadness, loss of zest for life, and persistent loneliness.

Here are 5 types of "hidden grief" you didn't realize you need to mourn.

1. Grief Over a Missed Dream Job

A career path you’ve invested years in that is a constant struggle or never reaches fruition or the success you imagined can be frustrating an upsetting. 


It's likely you've pushed on and found another way to support yourself, but it's possible you may not have addressed the more profound aspects of losing the dream of your future with that dream job.

2. Grief Over the Loss of Potential Love

A divorce, relationship betrayal, or series of unsatisfying relationships or breakups will always be painful. But one form of grief that may go unaddressed is that beyond just the sadness over the loss of a relationship there may be pain over the loss of your dream that went along with those relationships. 

3. Grief Over Once-Close Friends Who Drifted Away

The loss of important relationships or friendships hurts, but the loss of the connection you shared with them — and perhaps connections to others through them — can be a painful form of hidden grief. 

4. Grief Over a Lost Beloved Animal Companion

The loss of a beloved pet or pets hurt. Even when we adopt new fur friends, we miss the relationship we had with our former pets. Some may dismiss it as "just an animal" but the love we feel for them is very profound and isn't simple to dismiss.


5. Grief Over the Ideal Family Life — Which Never Happened

Marriage, parenthood, or family life not turning out the way you expected it to be? The loss of any long-held dream such as having children or getting married or remarried is a grief that may need to be felt and healed.

You may even have something of your own to add to the list.

If you don’t yet see your hidden grief and have a chance to mourn, you can feel a kind of free-floating low-grade sadness, anger, anxiety and depression that clouds your days. You may find it hard to sleep or make authentic connections with others.

You may feel the need to isolate in order to protect yourself and your heart. It can be difficult and painful to explore and identify new goals that give life meaning because of the fear of being let down or hurt again.


RELATED: Why You Never Stop Grieving When You Lose Someone You Love

Here are 3 steps to help you process your "hidden grief."

1. Be aware of your losses.

The first step in moving out of hidden, unmourned grief and healing broken life dreams is creating awareness around your losses that you may not have fully grieved or mourned.

You can do this by starting a "Losses List" with dates and details. You may start back as far as you can remember. It may include losses from childhood from divorce or illness or difficulty with school, for example.

Previously, something you may have thought of as a loss that wasn’t a big deal in your head may be held in your heart as something that had far more importance.


2. Share your story with someone you trust.

The second part of healing hidden unmourned grief is finding a compassionate person or friend you can trust and sharing your story or stories.

Be clear that you're not looking for advice or to fix anything. This person is to simply listen with compassion and be your witness.

As you begin to release the long-held grief, you create space for new life to enter. More opportunities for love and feelings may now surface. Life can move from being lived in grey tones to color.


3. Envision your future.

The third step is exploring and visioning new goals and dreams. Without these, it becomes difficult to move forward and life can lack meaning, purpose and can feel stuck.

There's no specific timetable for completing this work. It may take listening to yourself and your intuition from a deeper place than you have listened and looked before.

When you feel ready, you can rebuild and redefine what you want for a fulfilling life.

RELATED: 5 Stages Of Grief During Divorce That Are More Than Just Sadness

Stephanie Lazzara is an ICF-certified holistic life and relationship coach. She helps her clients move through grief, loss, and heartbreak. You can schedule a sample coaching session or find out about her relationship and life coaching programs on her website.