Well, what’s your guess? Six weeks, six months, a year? Six years? Or all of the above?
Mental health experts agree that it takes a minimum of one year to come to grips with the death of a close family member. And that does not mean that at the end of a year one is really “over it.” What it does mean is that, after one year, all of the important milestones have been passed, that is, the first birthday, Christmas, wedding anniversary, Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. There has also been time for the routine of life to be re-established, albeit without the company of the missing loved one. But even after a year, the pain can be searing at times.
Initially after a death, people often seem to cope quite well, particularly in the period between the actual death and the funeral. There is much to do at this time and it is not uncommon for the bereaved person to be seen to be functioning extremely well under the circumstances. Even weeks after, people still drop in for visits and activity levels are high, which is good for distracting the person from their profound loss.
And then there are those milestones mentioned above to get through. These, plus the loneliness of night time, can be the hardest to bear. As time passes, the pain eases, but can return in full force at the least expected time. Mothers of grown children who have died can suddenly break down in the toy department as they pass through, even though their adult child has been dead for some years and it may be decades since the deceased was a child.
Our memories keep the pain alive, but they also keep our loved ones alive, too. Therefore we have to accept the pain so that one day we can experience the happy memories of our loved ones again. Some days we will cry, some days we won’t think about them at all. Sometimes we cope well, other times not.
And although the world seems to have a timetable for us to get over our grieving, which in most cases in unrealistically short, we grieve in our own time, whether we like it or not.
And it takes as long as it takes.
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