Ask Golden Willow

Grief over historical losses arise with each new loss


Dear Ted: After the death of my brother, I noticed that many different losses within my life seemed to come rushing in like a tidal wave. I was surprised by this and felt overwhelmed as well as a feeling of not being able to honor my brother as I became engulfed with many losses and emotions. It was almost as if I couldn't focus and my brain sounded like a bunch of monkeys chattering in my head. My sadness for my brother seems to have drilled a hole into my entire life. Is this normal? Thanks, Mateo

Dear Mateo: I feel your sadness for your brother, and I assure you that having historical losses arise after a new profound loss is common and a normal part of the healing process. When a loved one dies, or you have some other type of profound loss, your emotions will trigger memories due to having similar feelings from your past. Emotionally, you regress to a young age as your emotional infrastructure is shaken, rocked or decimated.

Any old wounds or losses are brought back up to your consciousness. If your historical losses have been suppressed, they may be unresolved and are looking for healing to allow equilibrium within your psyche. During this chaotic time, the internal voices can get rather loud.

It is almost as if a bunch of fearful people are running around making noise with nowhere to go. Don't worry, you're not going crazy, and the voices will calm as your system starts to normalize to your new situation.

One of the ways to honor your brother is to consciously heal from your loss rather than stuffing your emotions down into the depths of your unconscious, where they will find a way to show back up in a future situation. Grieving your present loss gives you the opportunity to heal historical, unresolved losses, which in return, decreases compounded grief.

Compounded-complicated grief is when you have many losses that have not been emotionally resolved and are still irritants within your unconscious and conscious states of mind. The more you are aware of your emotions and release these emotions in healthy ways, the less the monkey chatter will persist within your brain.

Finding ways to have a little bit of distance between you and your losses allows you to see, hear and value your losses while navigating the flood of emotions that may arise. Choosing to be conscious of your emotions will allow your to grieve and grow in emotional maturity.

Find healthy ways to grieve through avenues, such as ceremony and ritual, open communication, professional supports, grief support, diet, exercise, quiet time and other actions that allow time to pause and honor your losses while allowing yourself to heal present and past emotional triggers. This will allow for more serenity in the midst of difficult times as well as during joyful times.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat, and they will be answered privately to you and possibly used as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.