Monday, November 29, 2010

How Long Will Grief Last?

When will the pain go away? When will life return to normal? When will you no longer feel like you're standing alone out in the cold?

The good news: Grief will not last forever.
     You will laugh again. You'll find new balance and purpose. The initail raw pain and crying spells will ebb. You'll go from crying A LOT, to crying several times a day, to several times a week. Then several times a month, to every couple months and less as life picks up and you're involved again.
     Time becomes more liquid, though, and sometimes you'll experience the memories and grief as if you're still in the moment. I think that's ok. It means you're human; you're created in the image of God who is not bound by time. God transcends time and when we experience memories as vividly as if we're still there, it's a foretaste of God's glory and power.
     So lean into the memories, lean into the grief. Don't be afraid, this won't hurt forever.

The bad news: Grieving takes longer than we want.
     In our push-button/instant gratification culture we hate to wait! We want quick relief! Grief doesn't work like that. Ancient Israel allowed 40 days for mourning--we're allowed a week or two off work or school. And there are social expectations. People in Bible times wore sackcloth and ashes. They wailed and mourned out loud in public. Today's widows look pretty good, they're complimented on "how strong" they are; they're shushed away and patronized to numb any pain with  medications and pleasure because they "deserve to be happy." People! Listen! Can we let her just be sad for a bit?
     It's impossible to put a timeframe on grief. Everyone's situation is so different; widows' range from teens to elderly, deaths occur instantly or with long anticipation, your loss may be contained or it may avalanche with a number of other losses. Some widows only need six weeks, most need at least six months, some will need six years. But we all only want about six minutes!
     Widowhood is the hardest challenge and test many women will ever face. Ask for professional help if you think it's taking too long, if you feel "stuck," if you're falling into depression. It takes time, but making the effort to take the time to work through it will reap a rewarding and richly satisfying future.

More good news:  Widows who take an active role in their grief can resolve it earlier than those who don't.
     Facing into the storm of your suffering, intentionally working through it, and gleaning all the wisdom you can will help bring about your desired acceptance and closure.
     In my opinion, when you're first widowed, you should allow yourself to experience the first year and all "the firsts" it will bring your way. Don't complicate it by adding a boyfriend, moving, or changing jobs unnecessarily. Use the time to become a student of yourself and your own grief. Attend grief seminars and support groups. Read!
     Talk! Find a widow who can be your walking partner, prayer partner or mentor. Carefully check out widows groups on the internet, start a blog about your experience. Tell your story. (Stay safe, though. Be very careful and protect your privacy. Evil people who prey on widows really exist!)
     And then allow yourself to ease into the second year with the realization that it will be very different from the first year. Note your discoveries, establish a foundation of wisdom and gratitude, develop an understanding of your new and special relationship with God.
     Then, if you feel like you're done grieving, you're done! Of course there will be many days beforehand that you'll feel like you're done--and a few afterwards that knock the wind out of you and make you feel like a failure, but that's life--welcome back to the human race!
    
Where are you in your grief journey? Are you just starting out, do you see some twists and turns ahead, or are you sliding into home? Here's Margaret's take on it as she faces her second year: http://www.gettingthroughthis.com/?p=4340 I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment by clicking on the comment line and typing in the box, or just e-mail me at WCPlace@gmail.com
ferree
(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lopolis/3127034069/in/gallery-48926779@N02-72157625362935647/)

4 comments:

  1. Ferree, you win me over with your wisdom and love and care all wrapped up in one blog post. Thank you for your ministry to widows. I am not a widow, as you know, but one day, any day, I could be, and you are preparing me to face my tragedy with hope. I send every widow I meet to your blog. May God bless you as you write for Him. Merry Christmas hugs, Ferree!

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  2. I am not very far on my grief journey,but sometimes it seems like it has been forever.I wish I could know how I will fare as the days go on,but I know that is impossible.I do have much to be thankful for,but sometimes I wonder if I am still in shock,because of how well I am doing.

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  3. Thank you for the comments and encouragement! Elaine I appreciate your referrals, and Ruth, this is a good place to gauge your progress and a safe place to be if the days get hard. I think sometimes widows have this dread hanging over them because we expect we have to go through all these stages of grief--anger, depression, etc. But grief is unique to the individual, the pattern varies. Ruth, if you hang on to the thankfulness you will have a much easier time overall. Not saying there won't be any hard days, but in Christ you have a wonderful, bouyant hope.

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  4. Ruth, I have been a widow since March 2009, and for the longest time I felt I was doing better than I was "supposed" to be. I learned quickly that I was and am doing as well as Jesus has led me to be. I've even wondered if people look at me and wonder if I ever loved my husband at all, because I never hid from people, I never lost my sense of humor, and had no problem talking about John. My pastor said something very wise: "Never think you have to live up to other people's idea of what grief is supposed to look like. Show your joy if you feel it, don't be ashamed of the joy that lies within you."

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