Will This Ever Get Any Better?
Gary Roe, Hospice Brazos Valley Chaplain and Author on 01/25/2018
"Does it ever get any better? Everyone says I should be over this or further along." Annette said.
Annette's daughter Kimberly was the younger of two girls. She loved pink, dogs, and horses. If she had the option, she would have lived outside. She did well in school, and then worked her way through college as a veterinary tech.
On the way home from her college graduation with some friends, a truck crossed the median and slammed into them head-on. The truck driver was the only survivor. Kimberly was 23.
"I never got to say goodbye. How do I recover from that?" Annette asked.
Grief has no timetable
The power and depth of losses can be staggering. We get hit on every level, every day. We discover more losses as we go. Weeks become months, and months become years. We wince. We ache. Our hearts are shattered. How long is this supposed to go on?
There is no "supposed to" when it comes to the intensity and duration of our grief. Every person, every relationship, and every loss is different. Our grief process is influenced by a variety of factors:
Who we are - our personality and internal resources
Our personal history of loss - other losses we've experienced and how they've affected us
Our personal relationship with our loved one - the depth and kind of our attachment
Our loved one themselves - personality, age, station in life, etc.
The nature of the death - illness, accident, violent death, etc.
Our physical and mental health
Our faith and spiritual condition - what we believe about life, death, the afterlife
The kind and degree of other current stressors (relational, financial, vocational, physical, etc.)
Due to all these factors, there are no exact time lines for the progression of our grief. There are no infallible standards for what we "should" be experiencing and when. There are only patterns, and these vary greatly depending on the nature and depth of the factors listed above.
No matter what our situation, as we process our grief in healthy ways, the intensity of our emotions will most likely lessen. As time goes on our loss settles in at new levels. Moments of shock and denial recede and diminish, giving way to a dull and heavy awareness of reality. As our hearts begin to adjust to this terrible loss, the grief isn’t necessarily better or easier, but different.
As we grieve, our loved ones get assimilated into our lives in new ways. We don't move on without them or leave them behind. They become even more a part of us. We heal, but we're not the same. We learn to live with a hole in our hearts.
On some level, we will never stop grieving. We will always miss them. We will never forget. But our grief will change. Time does not heal all wounds, but healing and recovery do take time.
Our hearts refuse to be on a grief time schedule. Grief is not a task to be performed or an item to check off a to-do list. It's a dynamic, variable, personal, and somewhat unpredictable process. We grieve because we dared to love.
"My grief has no time limit. I'll always grieve, but it will change over time."
-Adapted from the new bestseller, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child by Gary Roe.