How long does it take to fall in love?
How many seconds pass before a parent loves their newborn child?
How many arguments and rivalries can the bonds of siblinghood withstand?
How many heart-to-hearts and late-night phone calls before you know a friend is true?
These are silly questions, aren’t they? They’re like riddles with no answer. There’s no scale to measure love or to quantify the bonds of friendship and family.
It reminds me of one of my favorite lullabies, appropriately titled ‘The Riddle’. It’s a really simple song that my mother used to sing when I was young. It goes…
I gave my love a cherry that had no stone.
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone.
I told my love a story that had no end
I gave my love a baby, with no cryin’.
How can there be a cherry that has no stone?
How can there be a chicken that has no bone?
Whoever heard a story that never ends?
How can there be a baby with no cryin’?
Well a cherry when it’s bloomin’, it has no stone.
A chicken when it’s pippen’, it has no bone.
And the story of ‘I love you’ will never end.
A baby when it’s sleeping, there’s no cryin’.
“The story of I love you will never end”; what a beautiful lyric. What a true lyric.
Love, connection and caring, these are things that live on; they don’t just end….you know it…I know it…it’s common sense. So why then do we often hear this questions like these?
“How long does grief last? When will it end? When will I be over it?”
If grief is the result of losing someone we love and care for, then there’s no logic that can be applied or formula that can be used in determining how long it will last. If you don’t believe me, just give it a try.
X = how many years you knew the person
Y= all the ways you loved, needed, relied upon and adored them
5 = stages of grief according to Kubler-Ross
4 = number of grief tasks according to Worden
6 = number of grief processes beginning with the letter ‘R’ according to Rando
8 = number of grief Horcruxes that must be overcome according to our Harry Potter Grief Model
Hang on let me put this all in my calculator….stand by…still computing…okay so according to my calculations it will take approximately 13,824,000 days to get over grief. That’s about 37,873 years. Here’s the good news, if Litsa and I live until 80 then we’ll be here for you for the next 48 of those years give or take. Yikes, that’s not very long. Let’s move on.
The idea of a grief timeline is somewhat of a misnomer. Anyone familiar with grief understands that associated feelings, setbacks, breakthroughs, roadblocks, triggers, and resolutions can occur at unexpected, unpredictable and inexplicable times and durations.
Grief is not a race with a start and finish line, it’s a labyrinth of twists and turns and dead ends. Grief is like trying to swim past the break in the ocean – you wade in but every once in a while a wave comes up and knocks you back a few feet. You’re still deeper than when you started, but not as deep as you were before the wave hit.
Grief cannot be mapped on a timeline, although typically its intensity should be negatively correlated with time. This means the more time that passes, the less extreme and agonizing grief feelings should be. There will still be bad days, but overall it’s average intensity will diminish. It looks a little something like this…
So feelings of grief will diminish, but not disappear. Grief is infinitas which means ‘being without finish’. Grief doesn’t end, but with time it should look different; hopefully more peaceful, connected, and positive.
Here are a few small indicators you might be making progress in your grief. I find it important to note, you can take steps forward, yet still grieve your loved one. Just because you return to work, date, or decide to have a child does not mean you won’t continue to grieve the person you lost. The capacity you have to be happy, enjoy life, and love others exists in addition to the love you feel for your deceased loved ones. Because love…love is infinitas.
- You start to feel just a little more ‘normal’
- You have more good days than bad
- You experience an increase in energy and motivation
- You remember memories fondly as opposed to experiencing them as grief triggers
- You can constructively think about the loss of your loved one and the impact it’s had on your life
- Your sleep patterns return to normal
- You experience feelings of optimism about the future
- Improvement in performance at work
- You’re able to focus on personal health and wellbeing
- You feel ready to date again, have more children, and/or make new friends.
- Your relationships feel more functional and healthy
- You feel as though you are ‘rejoining the human race’
- You feel ready to get out of the house
- You experience an increase in desire for emotional and physical intimacy
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