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September 19, 2018 Beyond The Dash

Grief: We Don't Move On From It

Why you shouldn't—and can't—leave grief behind

Grief: We Don't Move On From It
We tend to think of unpleasant or painful experiences as ones to get over and past. But that's not always possible when it comes to grief. (Shutterstock)

We don't move on from grief—we move on with it. If you're a regular reader of the Beyond the Dash Blog, you may have seen this sentiment crop up often. But what does it actually mean? Doesn't everybody want to move past their grief? Who'd want to live in a state of bereavement forever? In this two-part series, we are exploring the idea that you can never really leave grief behind.

"How long until things go back to normal?"

We've explored the nature of bereavement in many past articles. Though grief doesn't come with many absolutes, the painful, confusing nature of bereavement is a universal experience for those who have suffered a significant loss. It's emotion you can never plan for, and it's unique with each loss. 

Understandably, many people who are grieving search for ways to overcome their bereavement faster. They want less pain, less time spent dwelling on their loved one. Everyone wants to know how long it will take to "get back to normal"—but there's no easy answer for this. 

If the loss of a loved one was a serious emotional upheaval, and you're searching for ways to "get over it," the answer you might not want to hear is that you probably won't.

Though you may want to conquer your grief, it's not something to be fought in the first place. Grief is not a negative emotion, but a series of conflicting feelings that occur as you attempt to reconcile with a world that no longer includes your loved one. 

"Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go." 

—Jamie Anderson

When it comes to someone you truly loved, there is no escaping the pain of bereavement. 

But it does get easier. 

Most people find that they feel better after a lot of tears, time and emotional support. There is no way to estimate how long this will take. Some people feel relief from bereavement after the first deathiversary. For others, the process takes years. And others claim that they grieve intensely forever. It depends on the manner of death, your relationship to the deceased person, and your way of coping.

This doesn't mean that you live in the same state of intense grief for years or longer. It simply means this experience is now a part of you—and it's up to you figure out how to respond, adapt  and grow.


So what if we can't leave grief behind and neatly close the door on it? Why is it worth discussing? 

Expectations of what grief should look like often hold us back the most from productively moving forward after a significant loss. It may be hard to accept that your life from this point on will be different, and that you will be different. But reframing your expectations of yourself will help you feel better. 

Moving forward

In our next article, we're going to explore the idea of carrying grief forward with you. Make sure to read Grief: We Move On With It.

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