"Am I going to feel this way forever?"
You've recently experienced the loss of a loved one (spouse, parent, sibling, friend, etc.) and are feeling overwhelmed with all that grief brings. Have you found yourself asking or wondering if how you're feeling today will last forever?
Many of my clients will ask me this exact question or communicate "I don't want this to be my life. I don't want to feel this way for the rest of my life."
So let's talk about this; does grief last forever? Yes and no! I know, real helpful. Let me explain! When talking about this with my clients we talk about two factors:
The typical nature of grief
The intensity of how we experience grief
Let's break each of these down and go more in depth.
Typical Nature of Grief
On the surface, grief can appear to be a life long sentence leaving many feeling hopeless and uncertain of how to move forward. However, grief ebs and flows which creates room for those who are grieving to learn how to grow around their grief.
The eb and flow of grief often presents as, "I was doing fine and then all of a sudden I started crying out of nowhere." These moments are referred to what are known as grief attacks (read the following blog https://www.bestselftherapy.net/post/am-i-going-crazy to learn more about grief attacks).
Growing around your grief simply means we learn how to carry our grief with us while living out our life. Let's expand on this concept a bit more.
How has the typical nature of grief shown up for you throughout your journey?
While the eb and flow nature of grief means we will have grief in our life some way, shape, or form moving forward, the ability to grow around our grief leaves hope for the fact that the intensity will decrease; meaning the way you are feeling today will not last forever!
The image to the right describes Tonkin's Growing Around Grief Model and comes from The Ralph Site (http://theralphsiteshop.com/moving-forward-not-moving-on/). It's a great visual of how the experience of grief changes over time. The common belief with grief is that it gets smaller (and maybe eventually goes away) over time. However, what really happens (which is where the "no" answer to the original question in this blog comes from) is we learn how to grow around our grief; decreasing the intensity and frequency of how you might be experiencing your grief currently.
So how does one grow around grief? Obviously, time helps but it's not the end all be all. We have to do the work in order to allow ourself to grow. Doing grief work can look different for everyone; it can involve:
Rewriting the narrative (aka the story we carry about ourselves, others, and the world) the loss has developed
Establishing continued bonds with our deceased loved one
Ensuring we have a strong and healthy support system
How might you want to begin growing around your grief?
While we are not able to remove the heaviness that grief can bring right away, there is hope for the heaviness to reduce and change over time even though the grief will always remain. We can't get rid of (and most desire for this to never happen) the love we've had for someone and the impact they've made on our life. Because of this, I'd like to invite you to see grief always being present as a new/different sign of love for your deceased loved one.
Here's to living a better life as your best self.
Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT