Stages of Grief How Long Does It Last

I am often asked, “how long does the grief last, will I ever get better, “?  The pain and sadness which accompanies the loss of a loved one is so uncomfortable everyone wants to know when it will stop.  The answer to this question has many variables.  How a loved one died, when they died, how they were related to us and our own style of coping are just a few of the variables that will influence the grieving process.

Type of Loss, Expected or Sudden

The type of loss can influence the grief process.  Grieving an expected loss is different than grieving a sudden or violent loss.  When  we expect a loved one to die we generally begin grieving before the actual death.  We watch our loved ones change and grow weaker.  Consciously or unconsciously we begin to process our goodbyes.  With a sudden death we do not have the opportunity for adequate closure or to move through a goodbye process.  When the death is violent or a suicide the grief process will also include great questioning regarding why, and how.  Complications of anger and or guilt may also become considerable variables impacting the length of the grieving process.

Grief and Healing Differ By Person

Grief is different for each person and the experience of “getting better” is also different for each person.  “Getting better” may mean to stop crying, or to become involved with society again, or to have a peaceful sleep, and for others just to get an appetite back and feel human again.  Grief is a process and there will be comfortable good days intermingled with difficult painful experiences of deep sadness.  A good way to monitor the healing process is to keep a journal.  Record how you are feeling each day, both good and bad.  Overtime you will see that the bad days are fewer and fewer and the lows are less low while the highs are progressively higher.  A bad day this week may be what a good day felt like last month.  It is very difficult to be an accurate observer of our own behavior and emotions.  For this reason a journal is perfect.  We can reflect back on our experiences written in our own hand and see that we have indeed made progress even though it may not seem to be so at the moment.

Strength and Type of Support

Other factors influencing the time frame for healing include the current support system.  Grieving is an emotional process.  If it is suppressed the process will take longer and can last forever.  A safe and nurturing support system will allow for the sharing and healing of the loss.  There is healing in the telling.  If you can talk about the loss and more importantly be “heard” as you tell your story the loss will move from an intellectual episode to an emotional episode.  Healing does not take part intellectually it occurs at an emotional level.  To feel our sadness, to express our despair and to feel empathy and receive compassion brings about healing or “relief”.  Keeping the feelings inside, and unexpressed is what causes sleepless nights, loss of appetite, anger and depression.  A safe, compassionate support system allows for the expression of our emotions.

It does get better in time.  Stages of the grief process do differ for each person and circumstance.


Julie Siri

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a specialization in death, dying and bereavement. I have worked over 20 years in hospice and have a deep respect and understanding regarding the end of life care process both for the dying patient and their family and friends.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. THis is well stated and well written. I am three months into grieving for a loving partner and it still hurts so much. I am journaling and yes, it helps. I am also attending a grief support group and have had two sessions of grief counselling. Grief robs you of energy and is a process that takes time.

  2. The problem is, 6 months after my father’s (expected) death, my husband thinks I should be over it. But … it was Dad’s birthday the other day, my late mother’s birthday on Christmas Eve, and the holidays … first without either parent. It is very hard to keep this pain to myself; I cry while driving around doing errands, every time Christmas music comes on that remeinds me of them … my mother died 20 months ago, my father 6 … and I feel like I have been grieving for a very, very long time. My husband is getting impatient with me ….. how do I get OVER all of this??????

    1. hello
      im very sorry for yr loss.i lost my mum several years ago and could not have realised how that felt prior to loosing her (my father in law died about 8 years earlier and it didnt really effect me) no one can comprehend the loss of a parent until they have gone through it. yr husband just really doesnt kno how u feel so u should talk to him and tell him. i still think about my mum all the time but eventually yr sadness will turn to happy memories…it took me about 3 years to get to this stage. i still have my dad.
      take good care. kindest regards
      paula x

  3. I have been grieving for nearly 8 years for my mom why hasn’t it gone

    1. I have been mourning for almost 6 years. It didn’t help that I had no support and also a brother that still causes me nightmares and guilt. I just want it to stop, also.

  4. It takes a while because of the depth of your love for them. Funny, my mother’s birthday was Christmas Eve also. You have had a double whammy because in essence, your parents died within a short time. After my mother died at 55 of ovarian cancer, I couldn’t see Mother’s Day cards without bawling. It took a few years. My brother died at 31. My dad and I grew quite close and when he died (just before my late in life wedding, I lost it. I did go to a grief counselor and she said that my Dad had always been there when I lost my mom and brother and now I had lost the anchor of my father and felt “anchorless”. It took me several years to get over my dad’s death. The happy ending is after being told we couldn’t have children, at 44 I had a healthy beautiful daughter. (I think they got together in heaven and gave us this beautiful child!) So! 6 mos. is a drop in the bucket. It will get better.

  5. I lost my father 5 years ago, yesterday was his birthday. I am still grieving losing him. I started going to a grief counselor, which is really helping. But everything right now is harder, and I’m hoping by going to the counselor, she can help me not tear up whenever something reminds me of him. The best piece of advice that she has given me so far, is to ask myself, would the person that I lost, in this case my dad, want me to remember them by crying and sad because they are no longer here, or be happy and grateful for the time and memories that we had with them. Remember that we will always have those memories to hold on to. So they will always be a part of us.

  6. I lost my husband of 44 years he was only 62,,,we were so in love and happy,,,he was my soulmate from my teenyears,,,,I tryed thr grief group ,,Not for me,,,all those negative people telling me I will never feel better,I walked in depressed and came out worst!!! I wanted to hear more postive things ,,like in time it will get better ,,,but it was all the opposite!!!Thank God I have tons of friends that keep me busy and always calling,,sometimes a bit much,,but better than the opposite!!! He passed 3 months ago,,from a Lipocarsoma from Agent Orange,,after his second surgury of 12 hours ,,I guess his heart and Body could not take no more,,,,He always said,,he would hope to go before me or he woulndnt want to live,,,,,,,Now im wondering How am I suppose to Live?????

  7. I just lost my best friend a month ago and it was sudden I have not stop crying since. The sadness is tremendous, I’m wondering should go get help in dealing with this or do I just deal with it day by day

  8. I lost my mother last year to cancer …..10 days before her 1 year anniversary….I lost my dad… heart will never be the same…..I really think some men do not get grief a women goes thru….I loved both of my parents so very much….so very heartbroken

  9. I am so sad right now…my mom of 84 years died last week of cancer….stupid cancer…I go from crying my eyes out to getting angry and feel like hitting something….I do not like this emotional roller coaster ride….I do not care about inheriting ANYTHING….I just want to leave it where she had it…this is so hard….I feel like I have a hole in my heart….

  10. I am so sad. My mother died end of January from Alzheimers. I was sad enough that I moved to another state to be with my sons (my sister and her family lived by my mother. My mother lived in an assisted living home. With her Alzheimers she did not know I moved even though I told her many times and I always called her and visited.). I feel so lonely and sad. I can’t stop thinking how fast life happens. I reminisce in my mind my younger days (I am 51, she was 73). I don’t have a good support system of people to talk to. The people I work with are cold (I have been at the job 1 year and 7 months and no real friends…I had quit a job back at my old home of 14 years and had many, many friends just to move to be with my sons). I have a boyfriend but he is all wrapped up in himself and his own issues. I am very spiritual and know she is with Jesus and that helps me, but I am so depressed and sad. I just can’t function like I used to. I need kind words and get them from no where.

    1. I can so relate. I thought when my mother’s was slowly being lost with Alzheimer’s that I would be more accepting. I still have nightmares of trying to protect her and not being appreciated or scorned. I have dealt with a lot of jealousy and narcissism from my family so it makes it harder. I am coming to terms but I have no one to talk to and no one cares. It is so sad that we live in such a self-centered time.

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