Do you wonder if the pain will ever stop, if the emptiness will ever go away? Will life make sense again? You may not believe it now, but the answer to all three questions is a resounding yes. And there are millions of people who can attest to that.
But that does not mean that you will be the same as before. Nor does it imply that you will somehow be totally free from the anxiety of your loss experience. There is a constellation of variables that determine the intensity and duration of the grievance. They range from the type of death, the number of secondary losses, and the degree of emotional investment in the deceased to their coping behaviors, health, social support system, and expectations, to name just a few.
What do we know about the duration and intensity of the complaints work, that process that we have to follow?
to adapt to all the changes imposed by the death of a loved one? This is what will help you come up with your own answer to that question.
1. Intense feelings certainly lessen over time. That will be obvious. However, to put a time limit on its duration is to dismiss an incontrovertible fact about complaints: it is a highly individual process. So that great pain and emptiness can last for days or weeks, depending on your individual variables.
2. You will also experience what can be interpreted as the end of your grievance, or at least a feeling that you are doing quite well, only to find yourself suddenly pushed back to where you were a few weeks ago. This can be a very discouraging event, although normal. Some event may unfold where your loved one would normally have been with you, and you are brutally reminded of their absence.
What is often called the “year of firsts” may include several of these episodes. There is nothing wrong with feeling anxiety, anger, or other emotions when this happens. It’s not just normal, it’s to be expected.
3. It is also very possible that years later, when you have adjusted to the physical absence of your loved one, a wedding, a birth, a graduation or an anniversary will bring you a new visit of sadness or the need to cry and express emotions. Don’t suppress these feelings. They are a common result of memories and a part of life.
4. As stated earlier, grief work is an adjustment process or, as many believe, a healing process. That healing can continue for years with stops and starts that bring new awareness and views on life. In fact, there are a number of people who believe that healing never ends. (I’ve heard some say, once you grieve, you grieve forever.)
Perhaps we begin our attempts at healing with our first big loss. Then, with subsequent losses, we have to continue the healing process, learning as we go. Perhaps adapting to change, or healing, is an ongoing or forever process. If it is, we don’t need to make it an object of anxiety and give it unnecessary power to distract us from enjoying life.
So, does the tort work ever finish? The answer, of course, depends on your individual beliefs and interpretations. For some, the job of complaining seemingly ends at some point. For others, it is about being reviewed for the grievance. Whatever your beliefs, rest assured that each of us possesses the inherent ability to cope with our losses. And, with a little help from our friends, get through those early days of confusion and change.
Where it goes from there depends on our choices.