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HOW LONG SHOULD GRIEF LAST?

by Marie O'Neill

Most people who have never suffered the loss of someone they love will say many things to you that make absolutely no sense at all. Don't worry about it; they have no clue. These people mean well. They may be your friends or co-workers or just casual acquaintances. Most of the time, they will understand your grief, in the beginning. However, after about six months to a year, it starts to wear thin with them. They want you to move on; to snap out of it. They say things like: "It's time for you to get on with your life." Or, "Don't you think it's time to move on." How would they know when it is time for you to move on? Even family members fall into this line of thinking. Don't get me wrong; these people care about you and they mean well. They just can't possibly know how you feel. On top of that, everyone one has a different time frame for moving through grief.

We all know about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grief, so I won't explain them in detail here. I will however, give the stages; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. What I want you to know is; there is no set time frame for your grief to leave. Yes, you will move through the stages of grief. But, you may revisit a stage. You could be at forgiveness and Acceptance and revert back to being pissed off. There is nothing wrong with this. It may take you a year, two years or five years to move through them. Only your spirit will know when it has healed.

When I lost my husband, I was a functioning griever. Just like a functioning Alcoholic; I would go through my day putting on a happy face for everybody; do what I needed to do to function in the world; go home and cry myself to sleep. Well not exactly, because the sheets would get wet from my tears and I would have to move to the other side of the bed to find a dry spot. But I digress; anyway, I found myself a year later crying in my car, while driving. The tears just came. I let them out. I did pull over because I was beginning to have difficulty seeing. By the way, that first year was a blur for me. If you had asked my family and friends how I was doing, they would have said great. I had moved on. I was in the Acceptance phase. Well, had I? Was I firmly in acceptance? I really want you to get this point. It doesn't matter what phase you are in; if you need to cry, do it. It is as Martha Stewart says: 'It's a good thing." That doesn't mean you cry at your desk when other people are around. The bottom line is, you have to let grief take its' course, so to speak. Please don't think that it is not ok to go back to any of the stages. One of the things I have learned is that there are different levels to each stage of grief. Sometimes you are at the surface level and need to go deeper. The deeper level might not show up for a while. Another point to remember is, as you are going thru these phases, don't think about where you are in the grieving process. If a friend responds to something you say about your grief with "Oh, you are in the depressions stage and you are getting ready for the acceptance stage." Just nod and change the subject. They are trying to be helpful, but you are not to be put in a box. In addition, , don't push yourself. Let your grief unfold naturally; doing this will allow you to heal in a healthy way.

Here's another point. It is partially true that: 'If you laugh the whole world laughs with you and if you cry you cry alone." If you find yourself needing to cry and you are not in what you would deem an appropriate place. Go find a good place; it could be an empty office or the bathroom or your car. But please don't hold the tears in too long. The grief will find another way to surface. So, you want to let it out as soon as possible. You will find that it comes in waves. There is an ebb and flow to it. This is natural. There are also many support groups you can join. These groups are designed to assist your healing process.

At some point you will find the cycle between tears growing longer. I have been widowed for five years and my grief has been transformed. I had what could be considered a breakthrough. It wasn't all of a sudden. It was gradual and I didn't even know it until I was clear of the depression. That doesn't mean that I have stopped thinking about him. It just means that I don't get the long pangs in my heart anymore. You know what I'm talking about. The pangs feel as though your heart can't beat another time. You want to rip it out because you physically hurt. For me, it's not about moving on. It's about letting that person take their place in your big heart along side others you love and those who have yet to come into your life. This is when I knew I had reached the deeper level of Acceptance. I'll try to express this in another way because I really want you to understand what I mean. There will come a time when you no longer ache for the person you lost. You will still love them and cherish their memory, however. Hopefully, if you marry again, you won't compare the new spouse to the prior one. That's another subject that I will talk about at another time. Anyway, you will begin to think about the person you lost differently. Your heart won't ache as much. You will begin to feel joyous again. One day you will awaken to the day, take in a breath and be glad to be alive. I promise this time will come.

If you are still grieving don't make apologies for it. You are a unique individual. There is no one like you on this earth and therefore no one can tell you when it is time to stop grieving. Give yourself permission to grieve at your own pace.

About the Author Marie O'Neill::

2007 White Lotus Life Coaching - Marie A. O'Neill is the founder of White Lotus Life Coaching. Her specialty is Life Renewal for Widows and Divorcees. Want More? Click on:  White Lotus Life Coaching for more articles to help you move forward in your life or to down-load your free 5 day 'Starting Over - Re-Creating your life after divorce or the death of a spouse, an e-course. Call or e-mail her to set up your free 20 minute coaching session. She can be reached at: marie@whitelotuslifecoaching.com or by phone 360-582-0716


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