Is Grieving Ever Over?
by Merryl Lentz
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When someone we love dies, or we lose something we cherish, a void is left that feels as though it can never be filled. We may try everything from therapy to self-medication, but the agony is still there. Is grieving ever over, or is it something that persistently remains, despite our efforts to get past it?
Grief, unfortunately, isn't something that requires a final working through of a loss, because you'll never completely overcome that loss. Grieving may feel endless. As sorrow persists, we may begin to wonder, "Will I ever get over this loss? How long will my grief and misery last?" As time goes by, the intensity of the feelings of loss may lessen, but you'll never get completely over them. This is because emotional memories are triggered by numerous things throughout our lives, and we need to identify what those triggers are.
Usually, those triggers come in the form of reactions to anniversaries, such as the birthday or death date of the beloved one, or any significant holiday you'd previously spent with them. Visiting a place that you used to frequent with the lost loved one can also trigger powerfully depressing emotions. Grief can also be elicited by an age-matching anniversary, which occurs when a person's age matches that of a loved one when they died.
Grief can be produced by external reminders -- such as the anniversary reaction -- because grief is an emotion that prompts you to remember, rather than to forget. Despite this, what many grieving people do with the emotion is to try to forget and get over it, which is not in alignment with the purpose of the emotion.
Instead of attempting to forget, one must attempt, instead, to remember, and there are many ways of accomplishing this. You can remember the lessons you learned from the deceased person, remember what you enjoyed with them, and even weep if you feel the need to cry. Even if your grief regards a good relationship gone bad, there is a lesson you can learn by remembering it.
We cannot imagine an end to this painful process we're experiencing, and we fervently wish our misery would just quickly and easily disappear. We become sick and tired of the tangled ball of emotions that grief elicits -- including sadness, regret, guilt, anger, resentment, longing and disappointment. We despise feeling so lost so much of the time, akin to prisoners of our feelings who are unable to escape.
However, we realize that the intensity of our sorrow is equivalent to how much we loved the person we lost. Every tear shed, every moment spent in regret is not just a testament to the intensity of our pain, but to the depth of love we felt for the departed one. It is our love, not our grief, that is the truest tribute to those who are deceased.
There is no specific amount of time that grief should or shouldn't take. It simply takes as long as it takes. For some people, this encompasses a week. For others, this can take a month, a year, or even longer, depending upon who we have lost, how close we were to them, and how their death takes its toll upon us. If unresolved conflicts between us and the deceased person exist, the lack of closure can cause grieving to take a long time, often accompanied by guilt and regret.
We might desperately want to skip the agony of grief, but unfortunately, this is not possible. Even if we're able to temporarily deny our pain or stuff it down, it is still present, and may eventually explode at an inappropriate time, or during another upheaval or illness.
Desperate to curtail the pain and get on with life, we want the sorrow to end -- and we want it to end right now. In the same manner that we hurry through life -- wanting everything to be quick and easy -- we may yearn to surmount our grief just as swiftly. We may attempt to rush ourselves through our mourning, believing we should just "get over it."
By getting over grief, it means that we won't be suffering pain over our loss indefinitely. We tend to believe that distress is permanent, and that positive emotions are temporary, yet pain can be temporary, as well. We don't forget the person we loved, or stop loving them, but we don't have to get stuck in grief. It may be a cliché, but with the passing of time, grief does diminish, and we can love and fondly remember without those feelings being accompanied by pain.
Often, we are subjected to the awful initial feelings of grief. Although grief never completely goes away, in time it does become less intense. However, if we hold on tightly to grief's initial power, the perception that we will never recover from a loss can transform into a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we believe that we can mend after a loss, we do. However, if we believe our suffering will be endless, we can manifest that, as well.
Grief that continues to dominate our lives for years is detrimental to us and places limits upon our lives. It anchors us to the past, instead of allowing us to move forward and live in the present. It blinds us to loving the people who are still alive and still very much a part of our existence. When you mourn for years, you become stunted by your grief and are dominated by the fear to love, the fear to commit, and even the fear of having children you may lose.
Part of what can thwart our healing is the mistaken belief that we need to grieve extensively in order to prove just how much we loved the deceased person. But grief is a useless testimonial to those who have passed on -- the best testimonial is to live a happy, fulfilling life in their honor.
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