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"Will My Grief Ever End?"

While the answer is both yes and no, there are things you can do to help yourself.

Key points

  • There’s no timeline for grieving.
  • Losing someone you care about changes a person fundamentally.
  • It's OK to oscillate between facing grief head-on and taking a break at times.
Source: Ruby Jones, used with permission
Source: Ruby Jones, used with permission

People often ask me, "Will my grief ever end?" The answer is yes, but it will most likely change you forever, and it’s going to take time. I know that’s the last thing you want to hear, but it’s the truth.

Losing someone you care about changes you fundamentally. It changes your outlook on the world, and your thoughts about how it "should" work.

However, if you want to help yourself along that path, here are four little-known facts about grief that my clients tell me they find hugely helpful.

  1. When we lose someone we truly love, it shatters the world as we know it and, as much as we don’t want to hear it, it takes time to rebuild a new life story. In essence, that’s what grieving is about—adapting your life story to include this terrible occurrence, taking time to grow accustomed to their absence, while also addressing the multitude of stressors involved in facing a different future. In essence, there are two processes occurring: we have to adapt to the loss, and we have to adapt to the future without them.
  2. When clients ask us why it takes so long, we often find it helpful to pose a different question: How long did it take you to love this person in the first place? This helps them understand why grieving cannot be rushed. Love and secure connection take time. Humans are social beings, wired to connect, but having those attachments severed hurts us to our very core, and dismantling that complex web of all the ways we relied on them, and loved them, naturally takes time.
  3. The good news is that you don’t have to go at your grieving constantly: contemporary grief theory says it’s OK to oscillate between facing our grief head-on and drawing back to take a break from the pain and anguish of our loss. That’s not denial, but actually a healthy approach to loss. Dip your toe in the water—sometimes you can go all in, and at other times, just a quick dip is quite enough. This too changes over time. Be kind to yourself. Don’t be pressured by other people’s timelines; go at your own pace.
  4. You don’t have to sever your connection with the dead, move on, and leave them behind completely; if anything, grieving is about learning to love them in separation. Find ways to keep them present in your world; to honor them and hold them close, while still allowing you to function out there, and slowly grow used to doing it without them.

While there's been much written in the last few years about how long is appropriate to grieve, much of that is academic debate. For most people who come to terms with their grief on their own, it's important to know that there’s no timeline for grieving. As much as we’d like it to be over in a few weeks, months, or even a year, grief works at its own pace. Be patient, expect it to ebb and flow, and most of all, don’t compare yourself to others.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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