Grieving a significant loss takes time. Depending on
the circumstances of your loss, grieving can take weeks to years. Ultimately,
passing through the major stages of grieving helps you gradually adjust to a
new chapter of your life.
Becoming aware of a loss
Full awareness of a major
loss can happen suddenly or over a few days or weeks. While an expected loss
(such as a death after a long illness) can take a short time to absorb, a
sudden or tragic loss can take more time. Similarly, it can take time to grasp
the reality of a loss that doesn't affect your daily routine, such as a death
in a distant city or a diagnosis of a cancer that doesn't yet make you feel
During this time, you may feel numb and seem distracted. You
may search or yearn for your lost loved one, object, or way of life. Funerals
and other rituals and events during this time may help you accept the reality
of your loss.
Feeling and expressing grief
Your way of feeling
and expressing grief is unique to you and the nature of your loss. You may find
that you feel irritable and restless, are quieter than usual, or need to be
distant from or close to others, or that you aren't the same person you were
before the loss. Don't be surprised if you experience conflicting feelings
while grieving. For example, it's normal to feel despair about a death or a job
loss yet also feel relief.
The grieving process does not happen
in a step-by-step or orderly fashion. Grieving tends to be unpredictable, with
sad thoughts and feelings coming and going, like a roller-coaster ride. After
the early days of grieving, you may sense a lifting of numbness and sadness and
experience a few days without tears. Then, for no apparent reason, the intense
grief may strike again.
While grieving may make you want to
isolate yourself from others and hold it all in, it's important that you find
some way of expressing your grief. Use whatever mode of expression works for you. Talking, writing, creating art or music, or being physically active are
all ways of expressing grief.
Spirituality often is part of the
grieving process. You may find yourself looking for or questioning the higher
purpose of a loss. While you may gain comfort from your religious or spiritual
beliefs, you might also be moved to doubt your beliefs in the face of traumatic
or senseless loss.
Grieving problems. In
this complex and busy world, it can be hard to fully grieve a loss. It is
possible to have
unresolved grief or
complications associated with grieving, particularly
- Had several major losses in a short period of
- Are grieving permanent losses caused by chronic illness or
- Lost someone very important in your life. You may feel
that you will never get over the
loss of someone special.
- Experienced the
unexpected or violent death of a loved one, such as the death of a child or a
death caused by an accident, a homicide, or a suicide.
- Have special
life circumstances that act as
obstacles to grieving, such as having to return to
work too soon after a death.
- Have a history of