Author: Veronica Lichtenstein, LMHC
May 24, 2023
Grief does not follow a strict timeline or schedule. It is a deeply personal and individual experience that varies from person to person. Some people may experience intense grief for a shorter period, while others may go through a more prolonged grieving process. There is no “right” or “wrong” amount of time for someone to grieve.
Grief is a complex and multifaceted emotion that can be influenced by various factors, including the individual’s personality, the nature of the loss, their support system, cultural background, and previous experiences with loss. Additionally, the relationship between the bereaved and the person they lost can also impact the grieving process. For example, the loss of a parent, spouse, child, or close friend may elicit different responses and lengths of grieving.
Moreover, the intensity of grief can ebb and flow over time. It is not uncommon for people to experience waves of intense grief, even after a significant amount of time has passed since the loss. Milestones, anniversaries, or triggers can bring back feelings of sadness and longing.
Approach grief with patience, compassion, and understanding. Instead of imposing timelines or expectations on someone’s grieving process, it’s helpful to offer support, lend an empathetic ear, and be present for them. Encouraging self-care, providing resources, and being patient as they navigate their own unique journey can be immensely valuable in helping them heal. When offering condolences, it is often best to listen, express empathy, and offer support without trying to fix or minimize the person’s grief. Simply being there for them, acknowledging their pain, and offering a sympathetic ear can make a significant difference. Words to avoid when expressing condolences:
I know how you feel.” It is best to avoid assuming that you fully understand their experience, as each person’s grief is unique.
“Everything happens for a reason.” Such statements may invalidate the person’s pain and suggest that their grief is somehow justified or part of a greater plan.
“It’s time to move on.” Grieving takes time, and suggesting that someone should “get over it” or move on prematurely can be hurtful and dismissive.
“They are in a better place.” While intending to provide comfort, this statement might not resonate with everyone, especially if they are struggling with the loss and focusing on their own pain.
“You should be strong.” Encouraging strength is important, but it’s equally crucial to acknowledge and validate the person’s emotions and allow them to express their vulnerability.
The five commonly recognized stages of grief, as originally proposed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.However, not everyone will experience all of these stages, and they may not follow a fixed sequence. People may move back and forth between stages, experience them simultaneously, or even skip some altogether.
Grief is a highly individual experience, and people need the freedom and space to process their emotions in their own way and at their own pace. For me, the grief from losing my father is a continuous journey, but accepting all the emotions that come with it has helped me in the healing process.