Grief Has No Expiration
While pop culture often depicts a grief “stage” theory, the truth is far less linear. There’s no defined end point or set amount of time in which one should “get over” a major loss. Grief is not like recovering from the flu—it’s a lifelong process. Especially after the passing of a close family member or friend, a piece of your heart remains with them. Sudden, traumatic losses usually take longer to reconcile as well. For many, sorrow ebbs and flows throughout their lifetime.
Shock Waves Over Time
In the early days after a death, shock and intense emotions dominate. As the first year passes, pangs of grief may hit strongly during milestones like holidays or the deceased’s birthday. In the following years, the acute pain usually becomes more subdued. But certain triggers can reopen the wound—a song, a scent, finding an old memento. Even decades later, grievers may experience deep sadness when remembering their loved one. Recurring grief is natural and should be expected.
There’s No “Right” Way
Every griever processes loss differently depending on the relationship, circumstances, their coping styles, available support, and myriad other factors. Some seem to recover more quickly while others take years to regain balance. Avoid comparing your experience to others’ timelines. Your grief journey is unique. Allow yourself to feel what you feel without judgement. There’s no correct way to grieve.
Holding Them in Your Heart
As years pass after a major loss, many describe letting go of acute grief but still carrying the deceased in their hearts. Cherished memories can be revisited without being incapacitated by pain. You can reinvest in life and even find joy again while still feeling connected to your loved one. They become part of you—an invisible mentor guiding you through life’s ups and downs.
It’s Okay to Still Get Sad
Even years later, especially poignant memories or milestones may trigger temporary dips into acute grief—and that’s normal. Crying or feeling down on meaningful days or when reminiscing is okay. Let yourself feel sadness fully, talk about your loved one, and accept support from others. Let the moment pass through you. Starting each day fresh is possible, even if down days come.
When to Seek Help
While intermittent grief is expected, if distress remains severe enough to impair daily function for over a year, you may have a condition called complicated or prolonged grief. Symptoms include extreme focus on the loss, intense longing, bitterness, inability to enjoy life, and suicidal thoughts. Seeking counselling helps resolve this type of pathological grieving. Medications can also be prescribed if depression develops. Don’t hesitate to get support.
However long it takes to integrate a loss into your life story, have compassion for yourself along the way. The depth of grief reflects the depth of love. Living fully, loving deeply again are still possible, even if sadness sometimes returns. Honour your loved one by choosing to embrace life. The sun will shine warmly on you again when you’re ready.
Support Systems for Grief: A Lifeline in the Darkness
When navigating the tumultuous waters of intense grief, having a strong support system can serve as a lifeline to help you find your way. These support systems are like anchors that keep you grounded during the storm of emotions that can accompany the loss of a loved one.
Family, the Unbreakable Bond
Your family is often the closest and most unbreakable bond you have in your life. When faced with the loss of a family member, the impact on your emotional well-being can be profound. Your family members, who share the same loss, can be essential pillars of support. In these trying times, they understand the depth of the pain and sorrow because they are experiencing it alongside you.
Friendship: A Comforting Presence
Friends are the family you choose, and they too can be instrumental in helping you navigate the choppy waters of grief. True friends offer not only a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on but also a comforting presence. They provide an essential connection to the outside world when grief might make you feel isolated.
Support Groups: Finding Common Ground
Support groups specifically focused on grieving can offer a unique space where you can connect with others who are experiencing similar pain. In these groups, individuals share their stories, their coping strategies, and their methods for managing the intense grief that comes with losing a loved one. Being part of such a group can create a sense of belonging and understanding that is hard to find elsewhere.
No matter how long it takes to integrate the loss of your loved one into your life story, it’s essential to have compassion for yourself throughout the journey. The depth of your grief reflects the depth of your love. It is entirely possible to live fully and love deeply again, even if sadness sometimes returns. By choosing to embrace life, you honour your loved one and keep their memory alive. The sun will shine warmly on you again when you are ready, offering hope and healing in the wake of intense grief.