cumulative grief

Cumulative Grief and Sorrow (from Supposed Life “Failures”)

Cumulative grief is probably not something you’ve ever thought of in your life. Instead, you probably wonder, “Why do I hate my life.”

You have buried grief and sorrow about the life you thought you would or should have by now. You think you’re stuck with decisions for life and can’t change anything now.

Oh, how you are wrong. You can always make different decisions for life, but you have to acknowledge the grief and sorrow resulting from decisions you made.

Decisions for Life Aren’t Permanent

You probably have no clue what I mean by cumulative grief. So, let’s take a look at that and you will be able to see that you have experienced cumulative grief for many years.

Did you think that your life would be totally different by now? Were you supposed to already have a family or a certain job?

Have you had feelings of shame that your life plan should have taken you elsewhere? If only you had A, B or C in your life like you thought you would by this age, then you would be proud of your life.

Grief and Sorrow

We all have grief and sorrow over varying aspects of our lives in which we thought would be different. That is what I call cumulative grief.

It’s the grief that has left you asking, “Why do I hate my life.” We have all struggled with that at some point in our lives, if we’re truly honest with ourselves.

Now, our cumulative grief is on a spectrum. So, the effects are small for some and quite large for others. Grieving over the life we thought we had can be a result of many different things.

Often, as a psychotherapist I see people with depression, but they can’t figure out why they are depressed. For many of those people, we begin digging into the unhappiness in their lives.

Phrases such as, “I should be grateful for what I have,” “I have a home and a job that pays my bills,” “I have people who love me,” do nothing but increase the amount of shame and disappointment in ourselves. This only increases our cumulative grief.

Sitting in that depression and now knowing where it came from or how to heal it is dangerous. If you have depression and don’t know why, then it is probably from cumulative grief. You need to read my post “No trauma, but Still Depressed.”

Acknowledging All Grief

In my work as a psychotherapist and my own personal work in therapy, I learned that we only acknowledge grief over the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship.

Yes, those are huge losses and tough to overcome. However, those losses add to the cumulative grief you’ve “collected” throughout your life.

That is why grief feels so heavy. It’s not just the loss of the loved one or relationship that you are grieving. It is every loss you’ve experienced throughout your life.

The death of a loved one or loss of a relationship are the only things we are taught are okay to grieve. There is so much more that you are grieving over, but you’ve pushed it deep down into your subconscious mind.

Grief Causes Not Good Enough Stuff

Now, let’s get into some examples of life experiences that create cumulative grief. Also, keep in mind that cumulative grief goes hand in hand with feelings of not being good enough.

I call those feelings “Not Good Enough Stuff.” We all have them, but very few of us acknowledge them and heal.

Ignoring your Not Good Enough Stuff just increases your cumulative grief and leads you to that question I keep mentioning, “Why do I hate my life.”

To learn more about Not Good Enough Stuff, click here. That post explains where your Not Good Enough Stuff comes from. You can’t heal it if you don’t know how you got it.

The Life You Were “Supposed” to Have

Let’s get back to cumulative grief to take a deeper look at what that might be for you. I’ll give you a few examples I’ve seen as a psychotherapist and from my own life.

As children, we create a picture of the life we think we’ll have. Rarely is that ever the life we actually create. You probably dismissed those feelings as just being childish. At the time, it wasn’t childish though.

Instead, those beliefs created hope. However, that life you hoped for never arrived. When you have dreams of something that never come true, that creates grief whether you recognize it or not.

By now, you might be thinking about all of the different “things” you imagined or wanted in your life that happened. Yes, that is a lot of grief that you never recognized.

That’s how cumulative grief happens. All of the hopes, wants and dreams we’ve had that didn’t come true have become subconscious layers of grief.

Childhood Dreams

I’ll use a fictional “character” to paint the picture a little better. Let’s call this fictional character full of cumulative grief, Grace.

Beginning around age ten, Grace wanted to become a fashion designer. In her mind, she was going to create this successful company by the age of twenty-five. Since she would spend her early twenties on her career, that would leave her late twenties for finding a successful romantic relationship.

Grace would find the perfect man and date him for a few years. Before she turned thirty, they would be married and ready to have children within a year or two.

The rest of her life would be easy, beautiful, and just the way she wanted. However, none of that happened for Grace.

Instead, she wasn’t accepted to the college she wanted that was the best in fashion design. Due to that, she decided she was a failure and should choose a different career.

She chose to become a teacher. She could teach kids how to develop their artistic gifts since she thought she wasn’t able to do so herself. Grace bypassed that grief of not getting into the college she wanted to become a fashion designer.

Instead, she just took it as a “sign” she wasn’t supposed to be a fashion designer. Now, let’s look at the rest of Grace’s dreams she had as a young girl.

Grace still believed she would follow her timeline for dating, marriage and having children. Guess what? That didn’t go as planned either.

This just adds to Grace’s cumulative grief. She begins to have depression throughout her late twenties but has no idea why.

The thoughts Grace develops are probably reminiscent of thoughts you’ve had. She beats herself up and asks herself, “Why do I hate me life.”

Society is Wrong about Gratitude

Society taught Grace to be happy with what she has in life. She has a job as an art teacher. She has family and friends who love her. She is healthy and blah blah blah. You know the rest.

Many would say that Grace should just be thankful for all that she has in life. That is a dangerous belief and one that has probably harmed you.

Cumulative grief still exists even if we have all these “things” that we should be grateful for. Grace adds more and more grief to her life as she moves towards her early thirties.

She has not found her dream man, had her perfect marriage and has no children yet. When she looks at the life she imagined having by then, she feels she has failed and is a disappointment to herself.

This happens all too often. I know that I struggled with disappointment towards the life I thought I was going to have by certain ages that didn’t happen.

When we get lost in a “place” like that, we feel lost in life and as if we’ll never have a life we love. If this is where you are right now, you need to read my post “Lost in Life.”

Healing Grief and Sorrow

Now, I keep mentioning cumulative grief. You may recognize your own cumulative grief, but don’t know what to do about it.

As with all healing, there are no A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 steps, as we are all different. However, I can tell you how I began healing my own cumulative grief.

I got married at age thirty-six and had a baby at age thirty-seven. I live in the Deep South. So, according to society I was practically an old maid who would never marry after I turned thirty.

The life I thought I would have is quite different from the life I actually have now. As I began my healing journey, I discovered that it was okay to be sad about “things” that didn’t go as planned.

If I continued to ignore my cumulative grief, I would never be happy with the life I actually created. So, I began digging in and finding my true soul identity.

Grief and Your True Soul Identity

If you feel like you need a little guidance in finding your true soul identity, read my post “2 Ways to Answer Who Am I.” That post will help you with the cumulative grief healing process.

Finding my true soul identity was a long process that I will always be grateful for doing. It allowed me to see that my “goals” were not aligned to my true soul identity.

If I had forced myself to fulfill my goals, then I probably would’ve never found peace and happiness. Exploring my cumulative grief allowed me to see all the “supposed” disappointments from my life.

Yes, I could be sad that the life I thought I wanted never happened. At the same time, I could see that there was an even better life that I could create.

If I stayed in the “energy” of ignoring my cumulative grief, I would’ve remained “stuck” in continuing to create the life I thought I was supposed to have. That would’ve been a terrible life to live.

Healing my cumulative grief showed me that it was ok to not have the life I had imagined. Doing that allowed me to see how I could create a life that the “adult me” truly wanted and needed.

Now, think about your own cumulative grief over the life you thought you would have. What if you allowed yourself to acknowledge that grief and sorrow?

You could let that go. If you hold onto it, then you will continue to ask yourself, “Why do I hate my life.” Nobody deserves to stay in a place of hating his or her life.

Make a list of the “things” you thought you’d have in life and maybe even the ages you thought you’d have them by. Be honest with yourself. It’s ok to name those “things” even if they seem ridiculous to you now.

Let yourself just sit and read that list. Acknowledge any feelings related to each “thing.” It’s important to do this.

You may not have grief and sorrow over each of the “things” now, but just naming them will help you see where your cumulative grief came from. That’s very important.

At some point, you were grieving those “things.” Your subconscious just needs you to acknowledge them in order to heal.

Now, do not tell yourself that you are going to sit down and name all the “things” that have created your cumulative grief in one sitting. Healing is a process and cannot be done in a day or overnight.

Allow yourself plenty of time to process your list. There is no timeframe in which this “should” be done. Take whatever time you need.

Now, if you’re a little “out there” or a little “woo-woo,” I’ve got you covered. There are some crystals for grief that can bring healing energy. If that’s not for you, skip past the list.

Crystals for Grief:
  1. Rose Quartz: increases self-love and acceptance
  2. Carnelian: allows you to share your sorrow and grief with ancestors who have passed for them to help carry your burdens.
  3. Amethyst: a great healing stone that counteracts anxiety, stress and provides a sense of calm
  4. Rhodonite: helps you restore yourself and heal your heart
  5. Apache Tears: heals grief and aids in depression
  6. Smoky Quartz: transmutes negative energy into positive energy
  7. Moonstone: helps to ground you when feeling numb or disconnected
  8. Pyrite: aids in manifesting the life you want

Hopefully, this post has helped you to realize that you have cumulative grief and that’s ok. Let yourself acknowledge that and begin healing that cumulative grief. You deserve to heal.

As with all of my posts, share your thoughts or questions with the Not Good Enough Stuff Community. We can all learn from one another.

If you have a question about this post, comment below. I will respond to your question. Now, go practice some self-care. You deserve that too!


This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.

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