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Shadow Grief

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A mother, whose son died more than five years ago, was concerned something was wrong with her. She had ongoing feelings of sadness when much of her life was going well. “Everything is really good right now. My marriage survived our loss and is stronger than ever. We have had a new baby we adore. I am really grateful for my life. But I notice I don’t feel fully able to experience the joy I think I should be feeling.”

A term that describes the experience of many bereaved parents is shadow grief. Shadow grief is defined as “a dull ache in the background of one’s feelings that remains fairly constant and that, under certain circumstances and on certain occasions, comes bubbling to the surface, sometimes in the form of tears, sometimes not, but always accompanied by a feeling of sadness and a mild sense of anxiety.”1

Any loss may be accompanied by shadow grief. Traumatic death at any stage of the life cycle may create this experience. Adults who were children when their parent died often describe shadow grief. Many circumstances may bring sudden unexpected feelings of loss. A sight, a sound, a scent, or a holiday may trigger a sudden burst of sadness that emerges from the shadow of your loss.

It is easy to wonder what is wrong, when after years have passed there may still be this dull ache. Days may be filled with light yet that shadow may be just behind you. Nothing is wrong. Although we may have joy, our loved one is absent. We yearn for their presence even when the sun is shining.

1.    Ronald Knapp, Beyond Endurance, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2005), 43.

CLICK HERE to purchase a copy of my book “Getting Grief Right.”


Getting Grief Right

by Dr. Patrick O'Malley

A masterpiece that will touch your heart and soul with healing powers. • A compassionate, wise, and practical guide • A must read for anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.


Grief Therapist

Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, who specializes in grief counseling. For 40 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families
in his private practice.


Getting Grief Right

by Dr. Patrick O'Malley

By the time Mary came to see me, six months after losing her daughter to sudden infant death syndrome, she had hired and fired two other therapists. She was trying to get her grief right...

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