There is no time limit on grief

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Our Reading meet up Host Emily Maybanks has written this post about the grief for her dad and how there is no time limit on grief.

On 7th March 2022, it will have been 10 years – a whole decade – since my Dad passed away from cancer. 7th March 2012 – that day, I seem to go through days where I remember it so vividly, but then some days, it’s like a distant memory. I always find myself asking – is this normal? Am I normal? Grief has changed my life so much since that day. I was 17, I’m now 27, so grief has been a massive part of my young adult life.

Every time something ‘major’ happens in my life – exam results, graduating from University, moving abroad, starting a job, moving out and starting a Masters degree – I find myself asking “what would my Dad think?”, “how would my Dad feel about this?”, or “would my Dad be proud of me for this?” I find myself feeling lost and hopeless.

What it is important to remember, I have realised over the past decade, is that there is no time limit on grief. For some people, grief can become too painful. It can grow into something totally different, like depression or anxiety. Other times, grief might last far too long, and take over a person’s life for years on end. This is called complicated grief.

Different types of grief over time

Acute Grief – Immediately after a loss, and for months afterward, it’s normal to have intense symptoms of shock, distress, sadness, poor appetite, sleep trouble, and poor concentration. These symptoms will slowly diminish with the passage of time.

Complicated Grief – Sometimes, the symptoms of acute grief never seem to go away. They can last for years. The loss of a loved one continues to feel unreal and unmanageable. You might constantly yearn for the deceased, or experience guilt about the idea of “moving on” and accepting the loss.

Integrated Grief – After resolving the most intense symptoms of acute or complicated grief, you will enter the lifelong stage of integrated grief. At this point, you have come to accept the reality of the loss, and you’ve resumed daily life activities. This doesn’t mean that you miss your loved one any less, or that you don’t feel pain in their memory – you’ve just learned how to cope. Acute grief may show itself again, especially around holidays, anniversaries, and other reminders.

The waves of grief

I find that grief is like an ocean. Sometimes, it is easy to swim but there are times when I feel like I am drowning, the waves are crashing and no matter how loud I scream, no one can hear me. This, I have learned, is totally normal.

People often compare grief to a series of waves. You may be coping well, and then find yourself suddenly overcome. Then the feeling ebbs away again. In the weeks immediately after a death, you may experience these waves every few moments. But as the year goes on, they usually become fewer and further apart.

It is important to take the time to feel these emotions

Eventually, you will feel okay most of the time — but there will likely still be ‘triggers’ that set you off, like birthdays, anniversaries, or certain activities you used to do together. These may also get easier with time.

I know that I will always miss my Dad and that the drowning feeling will come and go at different stages of my life and the tenth anniversary will be tough. It is also important to take the time to feel these emotions and to practice self-care. I find writing to be therapeutic and calming, as well as doing Karate which has been really important through my grief journey.

The most important thing is that there is no time limit on grief.

Emily Maybanks

If you would like to find out more about our Reading meet up group, you can do so by clicking here. If you feel you are experiencing complicated grief and you’d like to speak to someone about it, the best thing to do is talk to your GP. Find out more information on the NHS website, here.