When does grief end…I have been a grieving child, a grieving teenager, a grieving young adult, and a grieving adult. Even though these mark different death loss experiences throughout my life, they also represent the continuation of my grief journey.
So, does that mean that there is something wrong with me or my grief experience if I am still grieving a death from when I was a kid? No. Not at all. Read that again.
So many of us feel like there is something wrong with us if we don’t “get over” our grief. Personally, I hope I never do. My grief stems from love, and I never want to stop loving my people and animals who have died. They helped shape me into the person I am today.
Society, and even more so, some in the medical field (and sadly the mental health field as well) are quick to put a timeline on grief. As a mental health professional myself, I have heard many professionals say that giving an individual a year to grieve is typical, but grief beyond that point becomes problematic. Think about that … problematic. Doesn’t grief always feel “problematic”? But the crazy thing is that grief is a natural human experience, and one that no one will escape feeling at some point (and even many points) in their lives.
In over a decade of submerging myself in this field, delving into research, working with bereaved individuals, and having my own death loss experiences under my belt, I will tell you this …
- There is no right way to grieve. Sure, there are healthy and unhealthy coping skills and outlets for our grief – but there is no one way to do this thing called grief.
- There is no time limit on your grief. Your grief may grow and change with you, and while some days may still feel really raw, others might have your grief packing a bit less of a punch *whew*. Grief is a journey that we will have with us for the rest of our lives.
- There is no one that will know exactly how you are feeling. Your relationship with the person/pet who died is as unique as a finger print, so don’t feel the need to compare your journey with anyone else.
So what do you say to the confused (yet probably well-meaning) person who dares to ask you, “Aren’t you over that yet?” I’ve decided to be very assertive and honest about my grief and say, “You know, that’s a great question and big myth about grief. I won’t ever really be over it because I will always love them, but in time I will move forward in my own ways. Thanks for asking.” The more we can be kind in these frustrating moments, as well as educate the individual, the more we can help others understand that there is nothing wrong with us, our grief, or our journey with it.
Kiri Meyer MS, LPC, NCC
Director of Programming for Actively Moving Forward (AMF), a HealGrief program
More about Understanding Grief