How Long Does Grief Last?
We each grieve in our own time
The length of time it takes for somebody to go through the grieving process is specific to each individual. Your beliefs and religious values will no doubt influence how you react to this situation, and to those around you.
After the initial pain of losing a loved one, there will be a period of time while you slowly come to terms with the fact they have passed away and that you won’t see them again. Wanting to hold an item of their clothing close to you, or smelling their perfume or cologne is perfectly normal.
Your grief is as unique as you are and the process of coming to terms with your partner’s death will need patience and a full acceptance of what has happened. When you’re sad, it’s best to go with what comes naturally and not enforce any specific length of time for overcoming the emotions you’re feeling.
There is no time limit for recovery following the death of a loved one. We all have our own way of dealing with grief and if you find yourself thinking about your job, or other commitment, rather than thinking about your loss, don’t feel guilty. Life has a way of moving us forward as we go through the grieving process.
What are the different stages of grief?
Finding it hard to accept that your partner is gone is an understandable reaction, especially if you’ve been together for a long time. If the death was sudden and unexpected, then there will be an inevitable period when you find it hard to come to terms with what has happened and this could hinder the grieving process.
In their book ‘On Grief and Grieving’, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler outline five different stages of the grieving process:
- Denial: This is how we cope with something that we don’t want to freely acknowledge. For most of us, however, we gradually come to terms with the reality of it all and rationality follows.
- Anger: It’s quite usual to feel anger following the loss of a partner and to feel they have left you behind to cope on your own is normal. This particular sentiment is one that usually subsides fairly quickly and it’s important to recognise that following the death of a loved one it is quite common to feel this way.
- Low Moments: Once the practical experience of death has been dealt with: organising a funeral, your finances, deciding what to do with your partner’s possessions, etc. you may find yourself overcome with despair. It is probably better for you to give into this. Suppressing your grief will only make it last longer and will have the potential to make you ill. Hopefully, there will be family and friends who will be ready to support you should you wish to lean on them. Low moments are an understandable reaction following your loss and should be easier to bear with the passage of time.
- Grief Recovery: There is no time limit for grief recovery. The time it takes to return to the status quo is unique to each of us. If you have children, especially if they are still relatively young, you will very likely come to terms with your new life state more quickly. There is nothing like the responsibility to your children to help keep you focused. For those home alone, it could be harder and take longer before you feel a degree of acceptance over your loss.
- Seeking Help If You Need It: If you find the process of your grief recovery debilitating, then maybe you need to call in the help of professionals. Your local medical practice should be able to recommend reliable resources and you will feel better for taking those first practical steps towards your recovery.
Whether you’re a widow or widower, you will most certainly experience ‘down times’. This is to be expected and is part of the recovery process and not a sign of your inability to cope. Gradually you will find yourself establishing a new way of life and the potential to find happiness again. Hopefully, your vision for the future will be one of optimism and contentment.
Positively reflecting upon the achievements of your life so far, including your grief recovery will help you to recognise your strengths. The home you created with your partner, looking after your children, if you had any, and shared holidays together are all experiences that bring a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps your career successes will also come into the mix. Gradually you could find yourself looking back on your relationship as a much deserved success story.
Be proud that you have come to terms with your grief. There is nothing quite so bad as losing someone we love. Accepting they have gone, no matter what your age, is a personal triumph. Treasured memories will keep you going, giving you confidence as you move towards the next chapter of your life.