Dealing with unresolved issues from the past

As we age and begin to lose loved ones from our lives, unresolved issues have a tendency to surface. Often, problems arise from past conflict between spouses, or parents and children, which were never brought to a close or effectively dealt with at the time. Sometimes, such issues can lay hidden until we are faced with a difficult or traumatic situation. Sadly, it’s not until we lose someone, or we have to start caring for their needs, that long-standing issues start to emerge. If you suddenly find yourself in the role of ‘carer’, you may experience a mix of emotions including sadness, guilt, anger, resentment and even bitterness, despite your genuine love for that person. These emotions can turn into anxiety issues, an inability to deal with stress, or you may find yourself suffering from low self-esteem or depression.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that unresolved issues can lead to problems in the future including mental health issues and possibly even dementia. Therefore, it’s important to try and face your problems before they start to have an impact on your health and well-being, or possibly a loved one whom you might be caring for.

In this article, Mark, our lead Therapist & Counsellor, offers two accounts where people have faced unresolved issues at a much later stage of their lives.

Please note that names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.

Eric – dealing with loss and social anxiety

I met Eric 10 months ago. In his late 70s, Eric had recently lost his partner of 60 years and it was one of his children that found me and suggested counselling to him. Having lost his wife, Eric suddenly found his bereavement had been a catalyst for many things including the way he had been dealing with his social anxiety, “She was my social confidence. I hadn’t realised this”. Eric also found himself experiencing a deep level of guilt, “I keep remembering arguments when I said some horrible things.”

I worked with Eric to help him come to terms with his loss and the unresolved issues he was facing. As we worked together through the therapeutic process, Eric started to gain confidence and move past his problems.

“I didn’t know that people like you existed. Before I come to see you, I always think to myself ‘What am I going to talk about?’ and it always amazes me just how much there is to say. I can go down my local pub now and actually talk to people without my wife. Counselling has helped me see that while I might have said some mean things, I also said a lot of nice things about my wife. I’d forgotten this.”

As a result of Eric being able to move past his problems, he now faces a brighter future, free from guilt and anxiety. He is now able to take part in activities that he never thought were possible.

“I’m off on a road trip to Italy. We used to do this together and I thought I’d never do it again –  the counselling has given me this.” 

Roger – dealing with repeated loss, stress, and low self-worth

When I met Roger, aged 64, he had a history of traumatic bereavement, severe health problems, as well as a high level of work-related stress and feelings of low self-worth.

“It was time I dealt with my low self-esteem. I had no meaning and purpose in my life and drank as a means of escaping myself. It couldn’t go on.”

When someone experiences a traumatic loss, this can cause a variety of long-term problems – daily issues become intensified and this can often lead to low self-esteem and bad habits, such as heavy drinking and comfort eating. In turn, these behaviours have a knock-on effect when it comes to your health and the way you deal with day-to-day problems in the workplace. Unless you come to terms with the root cause of your pain, it is almost impossible to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Using a therapeutic process, I worked with Roger to help him overcome his traumatic loss, so he could face his issues from the past.

Roger’s feedback from our therapy and counselling sessions:

“Not being judged was the single biggest factor. I knew I could come into every session and be accepted for who I was; whether I’d messed up or had a good week, I knew I wouldn’t be judged.’

After our sessions finished, I was delighted to hear from Roger – not only has he now dealt with his past issues, but he has also taken a giant leap forward towards a much more fulfilling career:

“Long time no speak, which I suppose in my case is a good thing. Just thought I would drop you a text to say thanks for all your help. It has completely changed me as a person and put me on a new track with life. I’m now working as a teaching assistant and enjoying every minute. I am so out of my comfort zone working with 11-year-olds, but it’s great. Thanks for everything you have done for me.”

Mark’s case studies provide an insight into real-life, common situations that are often faced by many people. Sadly, most people find themselves wracked with guilt or sadness due to past events. Unresolved trauma or conflict can manifest and present in the form of low self-esteem, or stress, anxiety or depression (or a combination of all these feelings). Unless you face your problems, you may find they start to have a detrimental effect on not only your mental and emotional well-being, but your physical health too.

If you’re dealing with unresolved issues and need support, then please get in touch. We provide a range of therapy and counselling sessions to help people move past difficult problems and experiences, so they can lead happier and more fulfilling lives.