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When Grief Shows Up (Sometimes) Years Later

Grief is a fickle thing. Sometimes it doesn’t manifest itself right away as you would assume. Sometimes you repress those feelings and push them down, only for them to bubble up to the surface months or years later. This is why bereavement services are so important when you have lost a loved one in Santa Clara and elsewhere.

Grief doesn’t magically show up or end at a certain point after you lose someone you love. Over time, reminders will bring back the pain you initially felt, points out the Mayo Clinic. Those reminders are inevitable, so try not to push them away. Some are obvious, such as when you visit their grave, or perhaps on the anniversary of their death. Others seemingly come out of the blue, such as when you’re driving in your car and a certain song comes on that instantly floods you with sadness. Many things can trigger the pain of your loss — not just sights, but sounds and smells as well. And they can all be unexpected.

We’re expected to mourn during the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s death, with grief persisting invisibly after that. Others may not see it but you learn to live with the pain through the weeks and months to accommodate your new reality. However, the true tragedy of the loss tends to unfold in layers over time, says Psychology Today. On one hand, you have the loss itself; on the other, there’s the sorrow you’re feeling that changes you into a different person inside. You struggle to strike a balance between exceptional and mediocre as you slowly learn to live without that source of support you once had, whether that was your spouse, parent or other loved one.

This is the grief that persists invisibly as you move through your days and try to accommodate your new reality. The art is not necessarily in the forgetting; it’s in the letting go.

When Grief Returns: What to Expect

The course of grief is not predictable. Anniversary or birthday reactions may last for days at a time, evoking powerful memories of your loved one as well as the events surrounding their death. The emotions you feel during any remembrance can be characterized by:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Crying spells
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Pain
  • Sadness
  • Difficulty sleeping

How to Deal with Reawakened Grief

Even many years after a loss, you can feel sadness when confronted with reminders. But it’s important to take steps towards healing, even if they’re small. Here are some tips:

  • Get prepared. Anniversary reactions are totally normal, but it’s helpful to anticipate that anniversary and use that opportunity for healing.
  • Plan distractions. As the anniversary approaches, call some friends to go out, visit with a family member or take a small trip to get your mind off things.
  • Reminisce. Don’t ignore the good times you had with your loved one. Focus on the good things instead of the loss. You may want to compose a letter to your loved one or scrapbook some positive memories.
  • Begin a new tradition. Make a donation to a charity in your loved one’s name on their birthday, or plant a tree in their honor so their memory lives on forever.
  • Connect with others. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones, especially those who will encourage you to talk about the loss. Stay connected with support systems, such as support groups and social groups. Consider going to regular therapy sessions or joining a bereavement group.
  • Allow yourself to feel emotions. Instead of stifling your emotions, you have to allow yourself to go through those emotions, even as you experience joy and happiness. Special celebrations and memories may even have you laughing and crying at the same time. It’s all OK.

While there’s no set time-limit for any type of grief, that intense grief should gradually lessen as time passes. If your grief is worsening as the months and years wear on, instead of lessening, or if it’s interfering with your ability to live your life, you should consult with a therapist or counselor that specializes in grief. Unresolved or complicated grief has been known to lead to depression and other mental health problems. Professional help, along with support groups and other bereavement services, however, can help you regain a sense of direction and control in your life, putting you on a path toward healing.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To learn more about our bereavement services, please contact us at 888-978-1306. Don’t suffer in silence. We can help! Our bereavement services include anything from support groups and counseling to memorial celebrations and workshops. The key is to stay involved, get in touch with your grief, and surround yourself with a strong social support group. Only until you face your grief head-on can you hope to heal in a meaningful and lasting way.