When Does Grief End?
If grief follows the natural sequence of life wouldn’t it stand to reason that there is a beginning, a middle and an ending or does it spiral continuously throughout one’s life?
This is a great question and one that will be different in each case. For some, they never get over grief but rather learn to live with it. This is sad because they are not living their lives to its fullest and rather just making do.
Then there are those who believe it will end when it ends. Research has shown that if you allow yourself to grieve and be with it – then the heavy grieving where you are consumed by tears on a daily basis does begin to subside after about 3 months.
A Family’s Grieving
Let’s look at the question from the point of view of a young child whose has lost her father to death. Depending on the family dynamics the grief can become prolonged as it goes underground and presents itself later in life at different moments in time. This was the case for the person who first asked me this question?
I didn’t get the opportunity to delve deeper so what I’m writing now is pure speculation. Often it will be hard for a widow with children to find time to grieve. She now has more responsibilities and has to take care of everything including the family. Her grief can be put on hold.
Perhaps she isn’t comfortable grieving in front of the children so will stop herself if they are around. They may even hear her crying in her bedroom and wonder why? Children are amazing and will pick up on this and believe they did something wrong so it’s their fault.
When a child believes this, it can create conflict within them. They don’t know how to deal with these feelings. To help themselves cope they may develop bad behavior or rebelliousness to help them feel better. There is the other extreme where they withdraw and try extra hard to always do the right thing. They become good girls or boys.
Growing Up Without Dad
Regardless of how the loss was dealt with or how well they moved on with their lives, their grief may resurface at different times and for different reasons. It is often the milestones in life that tug at our hearts. Such as, when a young woman marries and is inconsolable at the thought that her dad won’t be by her side. Or when her children are born, and she realizes her dad will never know them. These situations can cause her to feel her loss acutely once again.
A young boy may feel resentful of his friends when he sees them with their dad. Or when his friends are playing sports or going on trips. It can be at these moments he feels the emotions but doesn’t know how to handle it. Crying isn’t an option, especially for boys. Those painful feelings may arise again when he buys his first car or when he buys his first house and it needs fixing. He can feel the loss of his dad all over again.
So, to answer the question, does grief ever end? It does end after the first event “the death” itself. The other losses are the firsts & seconds that I warn my clients about when they face these transitions through their life. Being aware of them doesn’t stop us from feeling these losses but what it does do is prepare us so that they don’t overwhelm us and we can plan for them.
Life is a series of losses and with each loss comes an opportunity for growth and learning.
This is how as humans, we evolve into expanded versions of ourselves. If it weren’t for loss when would growth and new learning occur?
Grief then is the alchemy turning our lead into gold and is as much a part of life as birth.
We must welcome in our grief as much as we welcome in our joy. Grief and Joy walk hand in hand just as surely as grief has a beginning, a middle and end like all emotions if they are given space.