Steps? Stages? Stop Giving a Timeline to Grief.
Grief comes in many packages, from many events and situations. No one’s grief looks the same, and with that everyone’s coping will look different too. Grief has no price, no weight. You can not compare your grief to someone else’s, it is an impossible task. Regardless of what it came from, everyone’s grief is very real and very valid. It can be challenging to realize that, especially now. We all exist in a connected time, one in which we can see the lives and experiences of everyone else. It can be easy to see someone else’s experience and compare what you are feeling.
There is no set timeline for grief. It does not matter if it has been 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, 1 decade or more. Your feelings and your grief continue to be valid and continue to be real. Just as we all develop differently, and at different paces, so does our grief. Be patient with yourself, and others. Handling and growing from grief takes time, so allow yourself (or others) that time and space. You would not rush someone out of their wheelchair after a broken leg, so why rush this process?
Let’s set one thing straight, there is no room for growth and moving forward with comparison.
They say time heals all wounds, but I think many people would disagree with that. Time heals most flesh wounds, maybe. A better way of thinking would be, time gives you the ability to feel your feelings, and grow with them to accommodate their place in your world. Truthfully, most grief doesn’t “heal” it just finds its place in your being and it’s up to you what you do with it. It’s not about “getting over it”, it’s about living with your grief and not letting it get on top of you.
This growth looks like many things, and won’t be the same for each person. You might even be confused or feel guilty for growth after grief. Should you feel bad for not being as sad? No. Should you feel guilty for not having that grief on your mind 24/7? No. Should you feel guilty for enjoying things again or finding things that spark joy? Absolutely not. You aren’t removing your grief, you aren’t forgetting about it, you’re just growing around it. It’s like the little plants that pop out of the cracks in the sidewalk or the vines that retake ruins across the world. Finding those ways to live peacefully again after grief. You might not look the same as before, but that’s alright too. No one expects you to be the same height as 6 year old you, so why should anyone expect you to be the same before your grief.
Grief is misunderstood. Most of us are familiar with the stages of grief, as that’s so commonly publicized. However, there is no rule book for grief. While there are “general” patterns, this is not the same experience for everyone. And it’s not expected to be. Again, there is no benefit to you or your growth to compare yourself. Do not feel guilty if you do not follow the same “steps” as everyone else. You might have a day where you feel whole again, then the next day might be empty and hollow. That is okay, it doesn’t take away from your progress. You might have a day where you feel whole, and then feel guilt for not thinking about your grief. That is also okay, your growth will never take away from the grief you experience. You might be years down the track, and wake up with a sadness for no reason at all. These are all okay! Grief does not move linearly, it is not a scrape on your knee that just scabs and heals over without even a scar. It is much bigger than that, and we must always remind ourselves that whatever our grief and our growth looks like that is fine because it is ours.
Everyone is on their own path. While each path may look a little different, there will come a time where you will meet a fork in the road. You will either continue to grow around and with your grief, including the bad days. Or you will let your grief consume you. Regardless of where your grief comes from, this is the choice you will make. It may not be a conscious choice for some, but the path will spilt for everyone. As impossible as it may feel, growth is the path that will take you out of the dense dark woods and lead you somewhere sunnier. That isn’t to say there aren’t bumps and struggles along the way, but there is light at the end of that path. You’ll have your growing pains, and you’ll have your backwards steps, but you will keep going to find yourself on the other side. One day you will wake up and find that you have accommodated for your grief and it doesn’t feel like a million knives in your heart as much as it once did. The hole that grief left is still there, but not quite as big, as the person you have become has grown around it. You will be okay.
You can either grow around and with your grief, or you can let it consume you.
Opening up conversations around topics like these are extremely important. As always reach out for professional help if you, or someone you know, is struggling.