The question goes through our minds in a dozen different ways and sounds like this: “When will I feel better?”
We expect to grieve during the funeral and for weeks after the funeral, but then a month passes. Six months. A year. Five years.
We want our living hell of loss to be over. Or at least tolerable. If we knew how long we had until we reached some kind of acceptance, we’d know we could hold out for that day.
I asked a version of the question, too, though I was well versed in what to expect with grief. A few years had passed since the deaths of my parents. And yet I’d stumble into a grief trigger and find myself longing for them in the same way I’d done the first year.
I’d get mad at myself. Feel like I was a hopeless case. Or that I was destined to be forever in a grief loop.
So, what is the answer to “When will I feel better?”
I wish I had a concrete answer for you – grief is unique to the individual and to the relationship – but I do have some guidance.
The duration of intense grief depends on a whole lot of factors:
- How your loved one died
- What your relationship was like
- How you approach loss
- The situation before the death
Sudden or violent death often extends the intensity and duration of sorrow. In the case of murder, family members face court proceedings that may span years.
A strong bond is typically mourned for a lengthy time, though the chance a soured relationship won’t be mended can trigger deep feelings of sorrow and regret, too.
If you’ve processed other losses in life in a healthy way, you’ll generally navigate a loss through death the same way you did things like the loss of a pet, a job, or a boyfriend.
And a range of circumstances occurring before the death – other recent losses or an extended illness, for example – impact the way you will grieve, too.
So what do we do with that question, “when will I feel better”? Let me offer these points to help:
- Recognize as a society, we’ve adopted misconceptions about mourning. It takes time. A lot of time. But embracing this time is the pathway to healing.
- Adopt good grief behaviors such as finding a good listener and monitoring self-talk for defeating thoughts. Seek out a counselor if you feel stuck.
- Don’t think of the end game. Think of the today game. Be present with what’s happening within you now and process that moment.
- Embrace the fact life won’t return to normal, but you will find a new normal little by little. Grief will be a part of this new normal, but it won’t control you.
- Celebrate each victory and each blessing. It’s okay to be happy, even joyful. It’s these “resting spots” of sorts that will give you strength through the pain of loss.
It’s okay to mourn for long periods, to stumble onto grief triggers and find yourself right back where you were, and to discover a piece wasn’t grieved, so you must grieve it when you find it. That’s all normal.
You’ll feel better some days or weeks or months and then suddenly feel moored to a melancholy season or to outright sorrow. Don’t despair. Little by little, the loss becomes quieter. And the love remains as strong and as beautiful as ever.
Copyright © 2020 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com