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How Long Does Grief Last?

There are so many misconceptions about how long grief is supposed to last or not last. There are books and studies and reports and endless advice and opinions about what your grief should look like. But really, the only person who knows how long your grief should last is you.

Sometimes grief lasts a lifetime. It comes and goes and takes different shapes and it filters into different areas of your life. It goes to sleep for a while and then sometimes it returns after years of being gone. Sometimes we are grieving for only moments and sometimes we grieve for days and months.

For me, grief has been a dominant theme in my life, but it has not lasted forever. The losses themselves stay with me always – they shape and mold much of who I am. But grief itself is a more elusive creature. I have also grieved differently for the individual people I have lost. The grief I felt after my mother’s death was not the same after my father’s, nor after my friend’s. There is no perfect formula for grieving that any of us could apply to our losses. I believe we must remember this, and that we must be kind and gentle with ourselves as we move through the process.

Anne Lamott writes, “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

Be patient with yourself as you grieve, and don’t let anyone but you tell you how long it should last.

Posted with permission from clairebidwellsmith.com.


What Really Matters


October 15–17, 2021

Join grief therapist Claire Bidwell Smith, death doula Alua Arthur, and hospice and palliative medicine physician Dr. Bruce (BJ) Miller, Jr. for an encouraging weekend of hope, healing and transformation.