How long does grief last?

Grief can affect every aspect of our lives, but how long does this usually last for?
By illume Editorial Team
Last updated: Apr 4, 2023
9 Minute Read
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As you navigate these uncharted waters, you may wonder, “How long does grief last?”

Grief lasts for as long and in many ways as the people who experience it. For most of us, it will last longer than we would hope or expect. And part of the healing process is realising that while we may never “get over” grief, we can learn to accommodate it into our lives and feel joy and hope for the future again.

Everyone’s experience of grief is unique – and keeping this in mind can help you develop compassion for yourself and others during this process. However, understanding typical grieving phases and milestones can offer comfort and direction as you travel down this emotional road.

The timeline of grief, the initial stages, and advice for learning to live with grief are all covered in this blog post.

When will I feel better after a loss?

It’s normal to wonder when you will start to feel better and regain a sense of normalcy after suffering a loss.

However, recovering from a loss and finding a new normal is highly individual and affected by various factors.

These could be things like how close we were connected to the deceased, the circumstances of the loss, how we coped, or even our cultural and social backgrounds.

Understanding that the grieving process is not linear and does not adhere to a set timeframe is crucial. You might have periods of healing and relief interspersed with waves of extreme sadness or anger.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint when you feel better, it’s important to remember that grief is a process that works – meaning it’s a vital part of the healing process. By allowing yourself to grieve, getting help when you need it from friends, family, and professionals, and using healthy coping mechanisms, you can gradually move towards acceptance and peace.

The Early Stages of Grief

First Few Weeks

A whirlwind of emotions and confusion are frequent features of the early phases of grief, especially in the first few weeks after a loss.

As our minds work to fully understand the scope of the loss, feelings of shock, disbelief, and numbness may be prevalent during this initial stage. People frequently feel like they are living in a dream or a parallel world, which is almost surreal.

This emotional defence system can shield us from the full force of grief as we gradually come to terms with the reality of our loss.

Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions during these initial weeks without criticism or expectations. You can create the conditions for a healthy grieving process, setting the groundwork for healing and growth as you negotiate the difficult journey by acknowledging and validating the depth and complexity of your emotions.

The First Year

You might experience a rollercoaster of feelings during the first year after a loss, ranging from rage and guilt to sorrow and longing. During this time, you undergo an ongoing grieving process as you progressively get used to living without your loved one.

This year, you may experience important events and occasions like holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries that can cause intense grief and longing. It’s critical to remember that these emotional swings are a typical feature of the healing process and exhibit the complex nature of pain.

Be patient and allow yourself to experience and express your emotions as you navigate this first year.

Even while the grieving process is still underway, you can continue to forge a path towards accepting and integrating your loss and discovering new meaning and purpose in life by turning to your support network and using healthy coping mechanisms.

Second Year

If you have engaged with your pain and worked to accommodate grief into your life, the intensity of your grief may have lessened slightly.

You might have brief respite and moments of pleasure during this time, interspersed with melancholy and longing. It is essential to realise that healing is a non-linear process and that the ups and downs of emotions are completely typical.

The second year may bring a fresh outlook and a growing capacity to appreciate your loved one’s memories without succumbing to grief entirely.

Recognising that you might still experience challenging moments or be significantly affected by your loss is essential. Grief may lessen in intensity but remain nonetheless. While some people begin to find their “new normal”, others might still be severely impacted by their loss.

More Years to Come

After more time has passed since the loss, you might notice that your grief is less overwhelming, allowing you to participate more fully in everyday life and make new memories.

It is crucial to understand that, even years later, grief-related emotions can still recur. Events, songs, or easy reminders of your loved one may set off these moments, rekindling your longing and feeling of loss.

It’s crucial to remember that this is a typical phase of grieving and doesn’t indicate a setback in your quest for recovery.

These times, however, are evidence of the profound and long-lasting influence your loved one has had on your life.

Coping With Long-Term Grief

Is there such a thing as long-term grief?

Some people experience long-term grief, complicated grief or persistent complex bereavement disorder.

This type of grief is characterised by protracted, intense feelings that last for a long time after the loss and seriously disrupt daily life, making it difficult to engage in routine activities and maintain relationships.

It’s crucial to realise that your experience is legitimate and that you do not need to struggle through long-term grief alone.

While mental health professionals can offer personalised advice and support during any phase of the grieving process, it’s often better to seek support as soon as you feel you need it.

Moreover, asking for help when dealing with long-term or complicated grief can be especially important.

Is there a normal grief process?

You might question if there is a “normal” grieving process you should go through as you deal with losing a loved one.

There is no universal timeline or blueprint for grieving because it is an innately personal and singular experience.

It’s important to understand that while some models offer a general framework for understanding the grieving process, your emotions, experiences, and life circumstances will ultimately determine how you navigate it.

Rather than seeing grief as linear or discreet stages, seeing it as a series of waves can be helpful. Sometimes, the pain will hit us, and we must endure the grief. Other times, we may need to focus on activities that comfort and soothe us. The movement between these poles allows us to grow through grief.

Grieving is a particular and private process. Giving yourself the time and space to grieve in your way is important because there is no “normal” timetable or route to experience suffering.

Best Practices on How to Live with Grief

Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s

  • Give yourself permission to experience and express your emotions without criticism or expectations.
  • Ask your friends, family, support networks, or a mental health expert for assistance.
  • Be patient and kind to yourself as you go through the mourning process.
  • Enjoy enjoyable and health-enhancing activities, like exercise, meditation, or artistic endeavours.
  • Establish a routine to help you maintain structure and stability during this difficult period.
  • Create a memorial or tribute to honour your loved one and keep their memory alive.
  • While still cherishing the recollections of your loved one, give yourself permission to make new memories and encounter new things.

Don’ts

  • Don’t disregard or repress your emotions; doing so might make the grieving process take longer.
  • Don’t feel bad if you occasionally think joyously or happily.
  • Do not compare your experience with sorrow to others; each person will have a different experience.
  • Don’t set expectations or timelines for dealing with grief.

Tips for Grief

  • Writing in a journal can be useful for processing your feelings and charting your grieving process. While you can choose to use a traditional journal book, Grief Works app has built-in journal sections to help you everyday.
  • Deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation are mindfulness techniques that can help reduce tension and anxiety.
  • Put yourself first, and get enough rest, food, and exercise.
  • Reach out to people who have gone through a comparable loss because they can offer insightful advice and support.
  • If your grief substantially affects your everyday life, be open to seeking professional assistance, such as grief counselling or therapy.
  • You must be patient with yourself while working through the grieving process because healing requires time.

Conclusion

Even though there isn’t a clear-cut response to the question “How long does grief last?” it’s crucial to understand that everyone’s grieving process is different. It can be helpful to gain some insight into your experience by being aware of the various aspects of grieving and milestones. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s experience of grief is unique.

There is no timetable for getting over grief, nor is there a “normal” way to grieve. It’s important to give yourself the time and room to process your feelings and heal at your speed. Recognise that emotions of grief may come back at different times, even years after the loss and that this is normal.

You can support yourself during the grieving process by engaging in healthy coping strategies such as spending time with loved ones, practising self-compassion, journaling, and participating in activities that make you happy. Remember to be gentle with yourself and understand that recovering from loss requires time and continued effort.

Find Grief Support with Grief Works by Illume

Getting support when grieving is essential. It can be challenging, but you don’t have to worry!

The Grief Works app helps you overcome grief and connect with a community that cares for you. It also offers live monthly calls and the ability to chat with a therapist when needed.

Moreover, it has a built-in journal book for your daily diary and the Grief Works Curriculum to guide you in this wonderful healing journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will I be in mourning after losing a loved one?

Everyone’s experience with loss is unique. It relies on elements like the type of loss, your coping strategies, and your cultural upbringing. It’s critical to remember that each person experiences grief differently and that healing happens at their own pace.

Is it typical for my grieving to come back years after my loss?

Grief can resurface years after a loss, which is typical. Various occasions, remembrances, or anniversaries can bring on grief. It’s essential to understand that these occasions are evidence of the enduring influence your loved one has had on your life.

How can I support my recovery and advancement following a loss?

You can use several techniques to cope with grief, including asking for help from loved ones, friends, or mental health professionals.

What should I do if I notice any of these indicators that my grief may be more complex or persistent than usual?

Persistent complex bereavement disorder, or complicated grief, is characterised by intense hopelessness that lasts long and significantly interferes with everyday living. A mental health professional can offer personalised guidance and support to aid you in navigating this especially difficult form of grief.