How Long Does Grieving Take?

It depends.  Because no two relationships are exactly the same, no two griefs are ever exactly the same or take exactly the same amount of time and energy to get through.    So how do you know when there’s a problem and things are taking longer than they should?

Recovering from loss isn’t easy for anyone.  What is obvious though, is that while some folks seem to sail through grief, others get stuck in the grieving process.   The Grief Recovery Institute calls this stuckness “Being Incomplete.”

Like being a little bit drunk, being Incomplete is often easier for others to see in us, than for us to see in ourselves.

How do you know if you or someone you love is Incomplete with a loss?

  1. If you are unwilling to think about or talk about someone who has died, or express feelings about the loss.
  2. If fond memories turn painful when you think or talk about them.
  3. If you only want to talk about the positive aspects of the person or relationship.
  4. If you’re only willing to talk about the negative aspects of that person or relationship.
  5. Incompletion may also be at the root of any fear associated with thoughts or feelings about the person or relationship that has been lost.

We’ve all encountered these indications. Sometimes in others and sometimes in ourselves.

Most often, they are temporary states that pass as we come to terms with the loss but when they become our usual state of being, we need to explore new ways of healing.

Often what keeps us stuck are the hopes, dreams and expectations we had for something Better, Different or More. Maybe we hoped for a better relationship with the deceased, more time and freedom in a new job, or a bright future with our beloved. Whatever it may be, death and other losses can leave us with unfinished business, unspoken words and the heartbreaking knowledge that our hopes and dreams will never come true, exactly as we imagined.

No one can tell you exactly how long your grieving will take but if you’re stuck because you’re dealing with an incomplete loss, it will last much longer than it has to.

Incomplete grief is an emotional problem.

Intellectual tools won’t fix it, you need emotional tools.

The Grief Recovery Handbook outlines the tools and takes grievers through the steps required to get to completion. It is available at most libraries and bookstores across North America.

Written by Catherine Mitchell, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist serving the Durham Region.

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