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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

How long do you need to grieve?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23293 points ) October 26th, 2010

Since I’m sure that many of you would suggest counseling for this, I’ll start by saying that I do have a therapist. I’d just like to hear my fellow jellies weigh in, from personal experiences.

I have had someone close to me die just about every year for the last 15 years, starting with my sister. Afterward there appeared to be this sort of domino effect in my life where I would lose at least one person every year. Some years there were 2 or 3 deaths, some years there were none. I am lucky to come from a reasonably large, but tight knit family. The years that there were none were very scarce, I can think of 3… I think. There were maybe 5 that were not very close to me, but were tragic or shocking enough to hit hard. For example, my 16 year old neighbor taking her own life on my property. I was not close with the girl, but I knew her, and finding that a child has taken their own life so close to home (literally), was pretty upsetting. Either way, I’d be lying if I said my sensitivity isn’t amped up at this point.
I recognize that this is probably excessive loss, that most people probably didn’t, or don’t, have such a steady lineup of funerals by 28 years old. I also most likely exacerbated the issue by deciding to work in hospice 5 years ago. I thought that it would be therapeutic for me, that it would help me to learn a new approach to death and grieving. Unfortunately I don’t think that it helped, as rewarding as the work was. Many of you know that I have taken an extended hiatus from my job.

Anyhow, I often feel like I haven’t had sufficient time to heal from the previous loss before the next one hits. Unfortunately I believe this has been a recurring pattern in my life. I often catch myself now hoping to rush the process, to just get it over with and bury the hatchet, so to speak.

So how long do you need to grieve a loss?
Does it depend on the circumstances?
Does it depend who the person was, and whose loss was most difficult for you to grieve?

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35 Answers

Deja_vu's avatar

That’s so hard to say… I’ve lost a few friends and I’m still in shock and disbelief.
I lost my father 3 years ago and I still weep. I’m sorry again for your loss.

lillycoyote's avatar

You grieve deeply as long as you need to; you grieve lightly forever. That has been my experience and my observation so far. I have grieved circumstances, experiences, deaths, such as the deaths of both my parents and other sorts of “deaths” like my brother’s schizophrenia; his body is still alive, at least as far as I know, but much of what made him who he was has been killed by the disease. And I understand the idea of not having had “sufficient time to heal from the previous loss before the next one hits.” Sometimes you can try your best to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again only to find that the minute you get back up the universe knocks you back on your ass once again. I don’t know how to help you. I can’t tell you it isn’t hard; I can’t tell you there is some magic way to deal with it or get through it. My metaphor for grief is tunneling your way through a mountain. You have a limited number of choices. You can’t really go back. You can’t go back to that point in time when the people you loved aren’t dead, or your heart hadn’t been broken, or when someone you love wasn’t ravaged by mental illness or despair. And you can’t sit in the middle of the mountain, in the middle of the tunnel forever. Your only choice, really, is to keep tunneling through, chipping away at the rock, resting when you need to and then carrying on. You will eventually get through the mountain. Or you can give up and sit in that tiny, dark little space, in that tunnel, by yourself, forever. A tough choice and not and easy road ahead but chipping away at the rock with your pick axe and coming out the other end seems like the best way to go.

I know my comments and metaphors can get a little convoluted and confusing, particularly if I am up way past my bedtime. I hope this one made some kind of sense because I am packing it in and won’t be editing.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Deja_vu thanks, and sorry to hear about your father. I am very fortunate to have both of my parents in my life, and that is one loss that I simple can not even begin to imagine. Just something I try to avoid thinking about. I feel for you.

@lillycoyote made perfect sense. Well said.

lillycoyote's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie O.K. I did edit it a little bit but now, I swear, I am going to bed.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Grieving takes different amounts of time for person that dies, the circumstances, and the support that you have from others who are grieving. I think the act of being able to grieve with others is helpful in getting over the sadness and the feeling of loss. But, as @lillycoyote said, you do grieve lightly forever.

I have not had an extraordinary number of losses of late, but did lose my grandmother, stepfather and sister-in-law within a three month period – my sister-in-law and stepfather within 8 days of each other. I am able handle the loss of older people, or those who have been seriously ill much better than suicides or losing someone young.

I have schooled myself to accept death as a natural part of life. It is the only guarantee that we all have—one day, we all will die. I have a sense that people who have died are still with me, in the way that they have shaped who I am, and changed my life by knowing them. When I really miss them, I focus on what they have given me that’s positive.

I do have small rituals of remembrance that I undergo, such as I periodically send notes to the parents of my friends who died when I was younger, saying that I still think about my friend. I feel it’s important for people to not be forgotten. For younger people that I know who have died, I tend to give money to youth oriented charities in memory of their name rather than my own.

The loss of people that are not deceased, but whom I will never see again, is causing me a great deal of pain. I carry that pain with me in my heart, and if I knew that not seeing them was because they were dead, rather than by circumstance, I think that would go a whole lot easier on me.

I wish there was a magic pill for letting go.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Oh Neffie… May I give you a hug? (o)......
What a raw deal… I feel for you.
Someone once told me: “I hate getting older, but it sure beats the alternative.”
Here’s a simple but sad fact: As you get older more people you know will die. Painful as it is that means you are still around.
Over the years, I’ve lost both parents, all grandparents and other family friends. I have learned that it is best to not spend too much time on your own grief. Acknowledge the loss, do what you have to do, and move on. Look at pictures, get mad, get the your tools back from his garage. One of the best things you can do is offer to help the grieving family. Their sense of loss is greater than yours. Cut the grass, prepare a frozen meal, help with something they cannot do, website, facebook accounts, help with the obit.
By doing something, you help them and yourself.
Here, say it with me… “I hate losing my friends to death, but it sure beats the alternative.”
Everyone is different but this method works for me.

One more. (o).....

marinelife's avatar

First, let me say that I am so sorry that life has buffeted you with a horrendous amount of loss. I do not know how I would stand that much grief and pain.

I am so glad you have stepped away from the hospice work. I feel you were like a PTSD victim seeking the circumstances over and over again to be doing that work.

I have come to think of grief as a helix spiraling upward where you deal with different aspects of grief or different layers along the journey through it. It seems to me that your grief helices were interrupted by fresh blows along the way throwing off and interrupting the first process before it could conclude more naturally into the light grief @lillycoyote speaks of.

Perhaps if you were to contemplate each loss separately, you could better come to terms with it. I don’t know, though, I am only guessing. When you come to the point where you are remembering happier times with the person and the memories make you smile, you are through. Even then, grief can sneak up on you when something sharply reminds you of the loss.

Take care of yourself: your body and your spirit as much as possible. May your burden lighten every day a little bit.

meiosis's avatar

I still occasionally grieve over my father, who died 30 years ago, especially at family hatching, matching and dispatching rituals.

One of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen was a 98 year-old woman weeping over the loss of her father who had been killed at the Somme when she was 10. I don’t think grief ever goes away, we just learn to accommodate it.

anartist's avatar

Until the grieving process is completed, however long that is.
For a few it never ends.

JustmeAman's avatar

So sorry to hear about your grief and I know exactly how you feel. I have lost family and loved ones for many years. I lost 4 of my own children and many other friends and family. I have some comfort in knowing they live on in the next life though some do not believe that. But time is the only thing that helps. You will never get over it all but in time you can cope better with it all. I can now talk about my children and how the last one died in my arms. He opened his little eyes squeezed my finger and the breath of life left him. I shall always be grateful that he was my son and that he gave me that memory. Hang in there this life is difficult at times. BIG HUGS

Austinlad's avatar

I agree with everyone above—grief takes as long as it takes, differerent lengths of time for different folks; you know when it begins and then one day you know when the worst of it has ended. But @TheOnlyNeffie, my sense is that your question is less about information about that and than about needing to talk about your pain—and I honor you for your willingness to do that—and I urge you to talk to a professional in person. Helpful as your fellow jellies may be—or at least try to be—nothing can beat face-to-face counseling.

And please know that I believe I understand what you’re going through and hope the time will come when it abates.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Austinlad you’re right, it is a little bit of both. I do have a therapist (I know I posted that up there, but probably easy to miss.) Thank you. :)

ducky_dnl's avatar

That is a lot of people to lose. I’m sorry. Even one death can scar someone for the rest of their life. It has been almost 10 months since my friend passed and I don’t feel an ounce better. It depends on how you greive and the person and how you lost them. Did you have time to prepare for some deaths or were they without warning? That can greatly affect the healing/grieving process. There is no set time limit.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@ducky_dnl both. Many were sudden and unexpected, but just as many were elderly or ill.. so it was not a shock. I think you made a good point, though. The unexpected ones always seem to be the worst. When you haven’t mentally prepared for it.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It depends not only on the person,but how they died.It is always sad.With some relatives and aquaintances,it has been easier to deal with than others,depending on the closeness.
In the case of my parents,I knew they were both going to go,with my mother, we used hospice,and my dad just under a year ago from lung cancer.While very painful,I knew it was coming so I think it helped with acceptance.
My two good friends that committed suicide within a few years of each other,however were tougher to deal with.

AmWiser's avatar

Like @Austinlad stated as helpful as your fellow jellies may be…. yours is quite different from what the average person may experience. Hopefully with therapy and just talking about it will help to bring some understanding. I for one feel your pain and despare and wish I could offer some sound advice. Hugs
(((o))))

Jude's avatar

It has been three years and I still have rough days. I know that I dream about my Mom every night. Her death has changed me (I will never be the same person. There is this underlying sense of sadness. I’m not sure how long it will hang around. Will it always be like this?).

Right now, we have got a family crisis on our hands, and I really wish that my she was here…

Grief for me; may not hurt as much, but, it’s always there.

wundayatta's avatar

They say lots of things at funerals that are supposed to comfort you, especially when the deceased has gone too soon. They say that death is a destination, not the end. They say the person lives on in our memories. They say a lot of stuff.

I think it is helpful to get together with other people who knew the deceased and talk about them. Tell stories. Remember. I think it’s good to do this over and over. It’s a kind of desensitization to the feelings of loss and the fear and anxiety that can come from those feelings. It also helps us understand what we have lost and to say good bye.

As to living? You do what you have to. We all lose people. We lose a lot. We…. well, I buried a close friend a couple of days ago and left too soon. Brain cancer. It seemed like boom—discover the cancer and then he’s gone. I’m going to sit shiva tonight with the family. It’s a good ritual, I think.

I guess seeing his casket being lowered into the ground was somewhat cathartic. Everyone is feeling grief. Later on, at the house, his widow was telling stories about how they met. We were rapt.

But still, there is a hole. An S——- sized hole, inside me and inside our community. Actually the hole is much bigger. It’ll never get filled. But after a while, we’ll decorate the edges and we’ll come here to remember, and we’ll get used to the idea that he’s gone. How long a while that is? Who can predict. Your grief is your grief. Feel it. Try not to let anyone stop you from feeling it.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@wundayatta sorry for your loss, truly. I know exactly what you mean about the hole inside. Well said, brought a tear to my eye.

wundayatta's avatar

Thanks, @TheOnlyNeffie. And I am sorry for yours. All of them. It is a lot to bear. We oughtta have a club, don’t you think? A grieving club? ;-) Maybe I’ll ask a question.

JustmeAman's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie I too just lost a friend from brain tumors. He was a close friend. We went out to eat lunch last Feb. He went to see the doctor that weekend and he was put in the Hospital. He never left the hospital and passed in June. I have missed him very much and he was added to the holes I already have. I guess as I have gotten older and seen so many go I have come to understand that death is just a part of this life and we all experience it over time. I did pass once and was brought back. Just always keep the memories that you made with those you have lost and never forget them.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Wow hon, I can’t even begin to comprehend what that must be like. I’ve had to deal with death, but nothing in that capacity. All I can say is that everyone deals with loss differently, and everyone channels their grief differently. I’d also like to say I am so very sorry that you have had to deal with so much grief in your life. (((HUG)))

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@wundayatta sometimes I have to wonder if it would be helpful. Must be a good thing to discuss with people that are going through a similar experience. You would think, anyhow.

@JustmeAman cancer is especially hard, I believe. It is a sad thing to see, that’s for sure. Sorry to hear it.

@WillWorkForChocolate and everyone else, thank you.

truecomedian's avatar

Without reading anyone’s response, or even the question, I would like to say the obvious, that some wounds never heal. That we can grow from our greatest pains if they dont overwhelm us. And that the grieving time is proportional to the size of the loss. Surely losing a cat wouldn’t be as bad as losing a friend or relative, right. Lots of cat lovers out there? I think its also how much you put into it. You can put yourself into a relationship in varying degrees, sometimes all the way, I dont suggest this, save some for yourself in case in goes south.

lazydaisy's avatar

My grandmother and my father died a week apart in February of this year. Grandma was in her late 80’s and ill, dad was 60 and seemingly fine.One death so overshadowed the other, I’m not sure I really grieved the death of my grandma. Much of my grief had to be put to the side to help my mother get through the whole ordeal.

It is this much time later and the loss of my father is overwhelming to me. The death of my grandma makes sense.

So, I guess the short answer is that grief really depends on the circumstance as well as the individual.

A friend told me that grief is like waves; some are big, some are small and you never know when they are coming. As long as you are standing in the ocean, though, you have to ride them all.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@lazydaisy sorry for your losses, that is a situation that is all too familiar to me. I know how confusing it can be to have one death sort of compound on another, and it does create a sort of unique experience and grieving process.. I believe.

YARNLADY's avatar

Me, personally? Well I was a complete zombie for nearly a year when I lost my first husband just after our first anniversary. The length of time was just about the same when it happened again, nine years later. With subsequent losses of parents and Aunts and Uncles, the feelings have not been quite as severe. Maybe it depends on what your original expectations are.

GracieT's avatar

I lost my mother in a traffic accident. She was driving, and my father was in the front passenger seat. I was furious and in the back seat because they were taking me back for the first semester of my senior year. I was not wearing my seat-belt because I was mad and thought that “I’d show them”! My mom had lost her grandmother and we were leaving the funeral and were going back up after the funeral. I’ll never really know what happened because I went into a coma because we were in a serious one car accident and I went into a coma for a month and a half. Mom died at the scene. I have been blaming myself ever since. I keep wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t fought with mom before we left. I might have not gone into a coma and mom might not have died. I’ll never know.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@GracieT I know you and I have spoken before, but your story is still so moving. I feel for you, what a difficult thing to experience. Hugs.

jerv's avatar

I’ve only had to deal with about half a dozen deaths, but I generally only grieve for a few hours. The upside of being cynical is that it’s easier to accept things in your life that suck the way losing a loved one can.

Justice13's avatar

I don’t grieve: I accept it as it is, move on with my life, and never forget.

john65pennington's avatar

I had three deaths in my family, in one year. I understand your question and feelings.

To be honest, it took about two years for my wife and I to get our lives back together, since the deaths were on both sides of our families.

Loss depression is what its called. Its hard to recover from one, when so many others come down the highway, so close together.

Prayers changes things. It helped us tremendously. Give it a try. jp

roaminggal's avatar

However long it takes. You are right as well about the circumstances. Everyone is different and too many losses too close together….......well, I can say for myself, I still don’t feel like I’ve healed and of course the older I get the more people I am losing. I’m pretty much alone in this world so my support system leaves a lot to be desired. That is soooo important. Just do your best to be patient with yourself and most importantly….. be good to yourself!

Inspired_2write's avatar

You would think with all this death around you that a messege of LIVE LIFE would be a neon sign to everyone.
The messege that life is but a fleeting experience, so make the most of it!
Do things that awaken your adventurous spirit..go places, meet a variety of people, read books, learn new things…life goes on…soon you will have a passion for life instead of death hanging over you.
That is why people who after experiencing a close encounter with death wake up and live !
They go onto find there purpose in life and enjoy every waking minute.
Everyday is truely a gift.

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