We begin this Grief Brief with the often asked question: “How long will this grieving last?” The simple response is that it will last for as long as is needed for each individual person. People grieve for as long as it takes to heal from a very difficult life event – the loss of a loved one or some other significant loss.
The length of one’s grieving time depends on many factors. Those who have accompanied a loved through a long illness, perhaps as the caregiver, have already done some of their grieving- but not all. They grieve for as long as is necessary after the death. Sudden deaths, because they entail no time to prepare, may require that one experience grief for a longer timeframe, depending upon circumstances. Traumatic deaths from shootings, stabbings, suicides, accidents, natural disasters, drug overdoses, or the tragedies of war usually have an extended period of grieving because of the grave circumstances of the deaths. The nature of one’s relationship with the deceased will certainly impact grieving time, as well.
Waiting solely for time to pass will not bring about the healing from grief that is necessary or required to enable one to go on with his or her life in a meaningful manner. Losses require grief work, and that is exactly what it is –work. It is helpful to realize that grief work requires experiencing all of the feelings that the loss has stirred up. Speaking to trusted others about one’s loss is helpful. Writing out one’s feelings helps as well. Reminiscing about the time spent with the loved one, remembering that person on special occasions, and celebrating the life of the person in some special manner will all be a necessary part of the grief work that one does.
When considering time and grieving it is important to look at the phases of time – yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is comforting initially to return to memories of the no-too-distant past, for it is there that the sad, but recent, memories of the loved one are. Remaining in the sadness of the past can deepen one’s personal sadness. It can perhaps lead to a period of depression which may exist for a longer period of time.
For grieving persons the future is a big unknown. How life will unfold and progress is quite unclear. Worrying about what will be or what could happen can easily lead to increased stress, fears, and anxiety. Projecting what the future will bring, too early in grief, is not helpful.
The present is the best place where one can direct one’s attention and energy. The benefits to one’s well-being will thus be significant. Focusing on what is now, as opposed to what was or will be, can aid the grieving person to face life events one day at a time. This can insure a smoother and more effective passage through one’s grief journey.
A good suggestion might be to visit the past for briefer time periods as grieving progresses. Trying to project future outcomes for one’s life too soon, can deepen one’s anxiety about “moving on”. The present ,therefore, is the time frame into which one can place one’s efforts at survival, healing, and growth. Stay there, for it is where your heart dictates that you should remain.