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How long is too long to grieve?

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Grief hits us all at some point in our lifetimes, coming in many forms.


Sometimes it’s a wife, moving forward after the death of her husband. Sometimes a man, existing in a world suddenly different from anything he’s ever known following the death of his wife.


We all know someone, a daughter, a son, reeling from the pain of losing a parent. A brother or sister forced to live without a sibling.


We even grieve our pets that become a part of our family as quickly as a newborn baby. We grieve for a baby never born, or taken away too soon.


Sometimes we mourn a life lived differently than we dreamed it, a child unable to do things we imagined for them.


Not long ago, a friend of mine stood in my doorway, each of us talking about our recent losses, family sorrow, and individual sadness. We pondered how long is too long to grieve, to cry, to be sad?


The fact is that healing is as different for everyone as the losses they endure. Some people feel emptiness, sadness, even guilt. For some, it’s the kind of heartache you can feel in your bones.


The thing with grief is that at times it subsides but comes back in waves or with a vengeance, rarely with any warning. Reminders of our loss are everywhere and triggers are all around. With bereavement comes the unknown. How do we move on? How does it ever get easier? Some experts say that grief can have stages, and that it gets easier with time, that a year is often what it takes to... to what...


Forget? Move on? Feel better?


So as I sit here, thinking of my friend in my doorway and her loss, of my loved one living through the hell of loss, this is what I believe.


I accept as true that grief is powerful, all-encompassing, painful and numbing all at once in the beginning. You are continuously kicked in the gut, the wind knocked out of you, crying more tears than you ever thought you could produce in one hour... one day.


I think that mourning is a normal part of loss but unending suffering is not. I believe that, eventually, we feel loss, emptiness and sadness to a lesser degree. The feelings don’t become insignificant; we just remember how to live, differently and without that special someone.


We remember that life is meant to be lived. We discover that after a while, we can smile and feel again, the guilt lessons and we settle in with the knowledge, that grief and loss lasts forever... it just changes.

Tannis Ross is a community correspondent for St. Vital.

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