Losing a loved one is never easy. In fact, grief is EXPECTED after you experience a loss. There might be things left unsaid, or experiences or dreams that had until then remained in the realm of hope or possibility. The finality of a loved one’s passing, or the breakup of an important relationship, presents a painful gap that no longer has the potential to be filled.
Even if things weren’t always perfect, while your loved one was physically present, or while your marriage or career was intact, there was still always the hope that circumstances would improve. Even if you knew that was unrealistic, there was still a familiar comfort in their presence. Now that your loss is final, it’s a different reality. A painful reality where you might hold regrets for things you might have said or done, mistakes you’d made along the way, and actions that are now too late to change.
- Grief is EXPECTED when losing a loved one.
- There is a myth that grief should only last about a year.
- Know the different stages of grief that might be holding you back.
- Holding on to the person you’ve lost is not the same as holding on to grief.
Are you feeling that you should be done grieving by now?
Those around you might have expected that you would grieve after a profound loss. Perhaps they were even quite patient and understanding, for a period of time. Perhaps they — or you — feel that you “should” be over the intense feelings of sadness by now, and no longer still be grieving as much as you are.
Grieving takes time. Grief is a process of healing that can not be done overnight. Sometimes, even if you feel that you’re finally “over it”, it can come back like a wave with a force of intensity that feels like it hit you out of nowhere. No two people grieve the same way and nobody can fit their feelings of mourning onto somebody else’s time frame. There is a myth that grief should only last about a year. For many people, the period is shorter. For others, the period is longer.
Do you feel that your grief is prolonged and you are having difficulty moving forward?
Like any emotion, grief is your own innate response to your inner experience. You should not be on a schedule to stop grieving, but if your grief persists longer than you feel is necessary, there might be something else that needs to be addressed to help you heal and move forward.
In therapy, you can get help to deal with your loss and move forward to accomplish your goals, feel invigorated, and rejoin your life. Therapy is an opportunity to access tools and resources to help you work through what the grief is trying to tell you.
Different stages of grief that might be holding you back
The five stages of the grief model advanced by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying have been much criticized. While the criticism is certainly valid in that not all people experience all the stages, the model can be valuable to you in understanding where you may be stuck.
- Denial: refusing to accept that the person’s actually gone
- Anger: It’s not fair that this happened
- Bargaining: Let this somehow not be true and I promise to____________
- Depression: Low motivation, hopelessness
- Acceptance: Coming to terms with the loss so that it’s no longer holding you back
It’s been debated whether or not each of these emotions is a necessary step that needs to be experienced even briefly, in some form as part of the process of working through grief. That’s not what’s important here. What IS important, though, is that if your emotions, whenever you experience them, are not given the time or space to be worked through, you can get stuck. Working through your feelings can build increased resilience and healing.
Holding on to grief does not mean holding on to the person you’ve lost
Some people think that as long as they’re continuing to grieve, they’re able to hold onto or are proving their unwavering commitment and loyalty to their loved ones. However, nothing can be further from the truth.
Healing from the pain of losing someone you love does not mean that you’ve in some way betrayed them. Healing does not negate your loss, or remove memory from your life, or mean that you love them any less. Grieving is the process whereby you give yourself permission to heal from the hurt of losing someone important to you, celebrate how they enhanced your life, and allow yourself to step into a life that they — and you— can be proud of.
Reach out today to get the help that you need.