Stages of Grief How Long Does It Last

March 20th, 2011 2:05 PM | 5 Comments

I am often asked, “how long does the grief last, will I ever get better, “?  The pain and sadness which accompanies the loss of a loved one is so uncomfortable everyone wants to know when it will stop.  The answer to this question has many variables.  How a loved one died, when they died, how they were related to us and our own style of coping are just a few of the variables that will influence the grieving process.

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Type of Loss, Expected or Sudden

The type of loss can influence the grief process.  Grieving an expected loss is different than grieving a sudden or violent loss.  When  we expect a loved one to die we generally begin grieving before the actual death.  We watch our loved ones change and grow weaker.  Consciously or unconsciously we begin to process our goodbyes.  With a sudden death we do not have the opportunity for adequate closure or to move through a goodbye process.  When the death is violent or a suicide the grief process will also include great questioning regarding why, and how.  Complications of anger and or guilt may also become considerable variables impacting the length of the grieving process.

Grief and Healing Differ By Person 

Grief is different for each person and the experience of “getting better” is also different for each person.  ”Getting better” may mean to stop crying, or to become involved with society again, or to have a peaceful sleep, and for others just to get an appetite back and feel human again.  Grief is a process and there will be comfortable good days intermingled with difficult painful experiences of deep sadness.  A good way to monitor the healing process is to keep a journal.  Record how you are feeling each day, both good and bad.  Overtime you will see that the bad days are fewer and fewer and the lows are less low while the highs are progressively higher.  A bad day this week may be what a good day felt like last month.  It is very difficult to be an accurate observer of our own behavior and emotions.  For this reason a journal is perfect.  We can reflect back on our experiences written in our own hand and see that we have indeed made progress even though it may not seem to be so at the moment. 

Strength and Type of Support

 Other factors influencing the time frame for healing include the current support system.  Grieving is an emotional process.  If it is suppressed the process will take longer and can last forever.  A safe and nurturing support system will allow for the sharing and healing of the loss.  There is healing in the telling.  If you can talk about the loss and more importantly be “heard” as you tell your story the loss will move from an intellectual episode to an emotional episode.  Healing does not take part intellectually it occurs at an emotional level.  To feel our sadness, to express our despair and to feel empathy and receive compassion brings about healing or “relief”.  Keeping the feelings inside, and unexpressed is what causes sleepless nights, loss of appetite, anger and depression.  A safe, compassionate support system allows for the expression of our emotions.

It does get better in time.  Stages of the grief process do differ for each person and circumstance. 


  • Ellie

    THis is well stated and well written. I am three months into grieving for a loving partner and it still hurts so much. I am journaling and yes, it helps. I am also attending a grief support group and have had two sessions of grief counselling. Grief robs you of energy and is a process that takes time.

  • Emarmon

    The problem is, 6 months after my father’s (expected) death, my husband thinks I should be over it. But … it was Dad’s birthday the other day, my late mother’s birthday on Christmas Eve, and the holidays … first without either parent. It is very hard to keep this pain to myself; I cry while driving around doing errands, every time Christmas music comes on that remeinds me of them … my mother died 20 months ago, my father 6 … and I feel like I have been grieving for a very, very long time. My husband is getting impatient with me ….. how do I get OVER all of this??????

    • paula

      im very sorry for yr loss.i lost my mum several years ago and could not have realised how that felt prior to loosing her (my father in law died about 8 years earlier and it didnt really effect me) no one can comprehend the loss of a parent until they have gone through it. yr husband just really doesnt kno how u feel so u should talk to him and tell him. i still think about my mum all the time but eventually yr sadness will turn to happy memories…it took me about 3 years to get to this stage. i still have my dad.
      take good care. kindest regards
      paula x

  • Dillion997

    I have been grieving for nearly 8 years for my mom why hasn’t it gone

  • SoHappyNow

    It takes a while because of the depth of your love for them. Funny, my mother’s birthday was Christmas Eve also. You have had a double whammy because in essence, your parents died within a short time. After my mother died at 55 of ovarian cancer, I couldn’t see Mother’s Day cards without bawling. It took a few years. My brother died at 31. My dad and I grew quite close and when he died (just before my late in life wedding, I lost it. I did go to a grief counselor and she said that my Dad had always been there when I lost my mom and brother and now I had lost the anchor of my father and felt “anchorless”. It took me several years to get over my dad’s death. The happy ending is after being told we couldn’t have children, at 44 I had a healthy beautiful daughter. (I think they got together in heaven and gave us this beautiful child!) So! 6 mos. is a drop in the bucket. It will get better.

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