Why Grief Continues Even Years Later
Grief isn’t a one-and-done emotion. It’s not static, unmoving, fixed or defined. Rather, people tend to flow in and out of grief, some hit hardest at the beginning, with grief evening out over time. Others are in a state of shock at first, seemingly OK, then hit with a fierce wave of grief weeks later. The level and duration of grief you feel after losing someone in Santa Clara and elsewhere will depend on your connection to that person, the depth of your bond. You may expect grief to end after a time, to give you a sort of closure. But it doesn’t always work that way. Bereavement services can certainly help, from support groups to counseling, to get you over those waves of grief as they come.
- Prepare yourself. Anniversary reactions are common and normal. You know they’re coming, so prepare yourself for those intense feelings as an anniversary of your loved one’s death, birth, or any other special landmark in their lives comes up on the calendar. Turn these anniversaries into opportunities for healing, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
- Plan distractions. When you know an anniversary is coming up, call some friends and schedule a dinner out, or gather with family members so you don’t feel quite so overwhelmed and alone.
- Reminisce on the good times. Instead of focusing on the loss, think about the happy times you had with that person. You can pen them a love letter, or write in a journal. Make it an ongoing conversation so this outlet is always there when you need it most.
- Start new traditions. Old traditions are wonderful, but in the spirit of moving forward and not dwelling so much on the past, turn it into a celebration by starting a new tradition. Donate to your loved one’s favorite charity or plant a tree in their name.
- Make connections. Talk with close friends about your loss, maintain a connection to your support systems, join a bereavement support group, and schedule time for counseling.
From Loss to Acceptance: A Long and Winding Road
While there’s really no right and wrong way to grieve, this emotion can go on for so long that it morphs into what’s called complicated grief. There are certainly many pitfalls as you go from stages of denial to acceptance. Complicated grief happens when there is a break or distortion in one (or more) of the mourning processes. You may struggle with:
- The recognition of the loss
- How to express your grief
- How to identify and mourn secondary losses such as social group connections, companionship, or your sense of place in the world
- Remembering your loved one and your relationship in a realistic way
- Giving up your old way of life and getting used to a new one
Losing a loved one is sad, overwhelming and distressing, but it’s a common experience many people face. Most people go through normal bereavement periods as they move through times of sorrow, numbness, guilt and anger, but those feelings usually ease with time as the bereaved person accepts what has happened and moves forward. For a small amount of people, though, these feelings of loss never get better with time and can actually become debilitating. This is complicated grief in a nutshell.
Life Goes On
Perhaps one of the saddest things when you have lost someone you love is realizing that life goes on for the living and the world still turns. Even when you feel like screaming in your head or curling up in a ball, life still goes on — albeit without your loved one. This is a hard thing to accept. But for most, that intense acute grief eventually ends. What continues over time is a sense of mourning, with many circumstances that can bring brief periods of grief throughout the years. They come and they go, forming a kind of emotional scar that remains after the initial injury but that allows the person to continue functioning and taking on daily tasks.
Taking health steps to move on doesn’t mean you will no longer mourn. It only means that you have learned to live with the loss, even with the specter of your loved one still hovering over you. That impact can’t be ignored; it can only be accommodated.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
Getting comfort in the midst of others who are going through the same thing is a wise idea when grieving. Even years later, a bereavement support group can provide comfort and calm in rough seas. We offer connections to support groups, workshops and counseling sessions here at Pathways. Just contact us at 888-978-1306 to learn more.