How Long Should Grief Last?

I was shocked one day when a friend of mine told me his employer spoke harshly to him after he returned from the three-day bereavement leave his company had given him when his father died after a long battle with cancer.

He was understandably sad and a little distracted when his employer said: “Your bereavement leave is done. Now get over it and get back to work.” People, especially those who have not experienced the death of a loved one, can have unrealistic expectations based on their lack of experience or empathy. In these cases, although hurtful, you must consider the source and know that your timeline is not contingent on anyone else.

After Jacques, my first husband, died, it took about nine months before I could truly connect with anyone else. I did go back to work, but I didn’t want to be close or share too much with others. After Ron, my second husband, died, my recovery was somewhat quicker. My son moved in with me after four months, and not being alone made a huge difference.

People say it will take a month, a year, or even five years to get over the passing of a loved one. Other people say that grief takes as long as it takes, and to those newly grieving or those experiencing their first transition of a loved one, such uncertain advice can be horrifying, leaving them thinking that the immense pain they are feeling right now may never end.

I encourage people by saying that each day they will feel a little better than the day before, and at their own speed, they will evolve into someone who no longer misses but fondly remembers their loved one. I say you never get over it, but you do learn to go forward with your life, and you always keep a place in your heart for your loved one that remains precious eternally.

Moving Through Grieving

How long it takes you to move through grieving can be influenced by many factors such as:
1. If the death of a loved one is the first you have experienced.
2. If the death was sudden.
3. If the death was by suicide.
4. If the death was caused by violence.
5. If you have known others who have died from the same cause.
6. If the death was a child.
7. If the death was the result of an illness.
8. If the death was long and drawn out.
9. If the death was preventable.
10. If you were there when it happened.

Any one of these situations can influence how long or how difficult your grief may remain. Each one has its own unique circumstances that affect us differently and add stress, concern, and even guilt to the grieving process.

Other factors affecting how long you actively grieve are:
1. Your religious beliefs.
2. Previous losses you have experienced.
3. Difficulty accepting loss.
4. How you are related to the one who died.
5. Cultural beliefs.
6. Dealing with issues like depression.
7. Your support system.
8. How well you take care of yourself and your health.
9. How you feel about the afterlife
10. How you process emotions.

When you experience a combination of these factors, your grieving process may become more challenging. Added conditions can slow the process down or intensify it greatly. Either way, being aware of all the conditions around your loss can help you see the many layers and complexities it entails. Therefore, overcoming it takes time and self-care.

Excerpted from The Grief and Happiness Handbook by Emily Threatt.

Read more from Emily at Grief is Healthy – Open to Hope

Emily Threatt

Emily has much experience with the grieving process having dealt with the death of two husbands, as well as the deaths of her father, mother, sister, and many aunts, uncles, and friends. Through all this, she learned to face life with love, optimism, and joy. She has kept journals and written to express herself most of her life. This led her to a career of teaching writing at the university level and writing textbooks. After her husbands died, she naturally turned to writing to help deal with her grief. Then she discovered that she could use her writing to help others deal with grief too. She created an online group to guide people through the ways writing provides comfort. Emily wrote the book Loving and Living Your Way Through Grief: A Comprehensive Guide to Reclaiming and Cultivating Joy and Carrying on in the Face of Loss, which provides guidance for navigating the downs and ups of that unfamiliar territory. She felt something was missing in the work she was doing, and through the inspiration of author Marci Shimoff, she recognized the importance of helping people discover how allowing happiness to coexist with grief is essential. She created the popular podcast Grief and Happiness, but she knew she wanted to do more. To help provide comfort, support, love, and happiness to those dealing with grief and loss, she founded the Grief and Happiness Alliance. This group meets on Zoom weekly to write about dealing with grief and to learn happiness practices. These meetings and other services are provided by the Grief and Happiness Alliance Nonprofit Organization so there is no charge to those who attend. Emily retired on the beautiful island of Maui in Hawaii after a rich and varied career of teaching writing and owning and operating business ranging from an ambulance company to a live theatre, to a school of arts and more. She spends her time now writing and teaching others how to deal with grief and loss and she teaches happiness practices. Emily's Professional Biography Emily holds a master’s degree with a concentration in writing. She taught writing and composition for over 30 years. During that time, she published three writing textbooks with Prentice Hall and Pearson Education. Giving Back Emily believes in social responsibility in business. A portion of the proceeds from her book Loving and Living Your Way Through grief is donated to NaKeiki O Emalia, which means Emalia’s Children. This organization provides support to grieving children, teens, and their families in Maui to help them heal after the death of a loved one. All their services are free. All of the profits from the sale of The Grief and Happiness Handbook and the Grief and Happiness Cards go to The Grief and Happiness Alliance Nonprofit Organization to enable them to provide their services free.

More Articles Written by Emily