How Long is Too Long to Grieve?

Is there some magic amount of time to grieve a death, or the break up of a relationship, the break up of a family, loss of a job, financial downturns, loss of a pet?  I’m talking about grief and loss, hurting, struggling, pain, sadness, anger.  How long does it take to “get over” someone or something?

Would it be helpful for you to know that grief takes as long as it takes?  I often have people ask me what is a normal time to grieve this. I tell them there is not a formula for grieving.  Certainly experience and coping skills can help, but I always get concerned when I hear someone say, “When you lose a spouse, it usually takes ____ years!”

The length of the grieving process often depends on the nature of the loss, whether or not someone is experiencing multiple losses, the willingness of those grieving to do their “grief work,” and the willingness of family members and friends to give each other permission to grieve and to accept that there are no shortcuts in the grief process.

In the past, some would say that the griever must keep a “stiff upper lip.”  Part of the Christian message is that we certainly grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

Grief does not express a lack of faith in God; instead it can lead us to a deeper understanding of our faith, our need for God, and His promise that He will be with us in the midst of our pain and grief, that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Remember, grief takes as long as it takes. As you embark upon your own journey of grief, remember that God wants to comfort you during the process!

Barbara Roberts

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Barb Roberts has been in the ministry of Pastoral Care for over 30 years. During all of those years, she has been privileged to help those who grieve, having experienced grief and loss in her own life as well. Her blog can be accessed directly on her website - The publication by NavPress of her book, "Helping Those Who Hurt: A Handbook for Caring and Crisis" gives information, guidance and insight for the lay person, the friend, the family member and the minister, through lists, step-by-step directions, Scripture and personal vignettes. She is a conference speaker and teacher on these and other Caring Ministry subjects. Reach her through her website,


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  • Julie says:

    “He will be with us in the midst of our pain…He will never leave us nor forsake us.” How can anyone delude themselves with this nonsense? Where is “He” for all the suicides?
    We get strength from ourselves and our loved ones, not from some fabricated god. Also, some of us are naturally more emotionally equipped to cope.
    If you believe the above quote, then you believe that this god chooses to help some over others. It’s all meaningless, religious sentiment, nothing one can really hang their hat on. Let’s get real.

  • Vicki says:

    I have a niece who has a 14 year old son. Her mother passed away 12 years ago. She is not only strongly living in her grief, but it has deeply affected her life, her son and the family tremendously. She drinks, is depressed all of the time and belittles her son. She also has unresolved issues with not being able to tell her mother goodbye (who died suddenly).

    I understand that the grieving process takes time; however, I do believe when it continuously becomes worse and affects others,there is a time when one should say “enough is enough”. Denial has become a source of strength for her.

    Please comment and thank you for your article.

  • Jenny says:

    The ONLY thing i was certain of, that struck me as the only truth, was God needed her more than i did. That he has his own reasons that i’m not ready to understand. What came upon me the day of her mermorial was the thought out of nowhere that i’m not suppose to know. I’m not suppose to know of heaven and where she goes. I have not earned the right to be there yet. I don’t know when my time will come, but the only assurence i have for my pain, is that she has none.