When Am I Going to Be Able to Stop Grieving and Start Feeling Better?

25 answers | Last updated: Oct 13, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

When am I going to be able to stop grieving and start feeling better?

Expert Answers

Martha Clark Scala has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 1992, with offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. She regularly writes about grief and loss, the necessity of self-care, and substance abuse. Her e-newsletter, "Out on a Limb," is available to subscribers through her website.

It depends. There are a number of factors that might contribute to how long it takes to feel better again. The most common include:

*The quality of your relationship with the deceased.

*The amount of personal or vicarious trauma associated with the loss.

*The extent of unresolved issues in your relationship with the person who died.

*Your role in dealing with the aftermath of the death.

*Your willingness to address your grief rather than avoid it.

Bear in mind that bereavement is a process. Acute grief may last quite a while, and that's normal. More often than not, those who try to force themselves to "get over it" quickly are unsuccessful. Try to avoid this unrealistic expectation by being as patient and gentle with yourself as possible.

You may start to feel better in three months, but don't be surprised if you're still miserable, at least some of the time, several months to several years after your loss. The average length of time it takes most people to consistently feel better is about a year. However, it's also common to feel better for a while and then take a turn for the worse. That can be triggered by events such as special holidays or occasions that have a particular association with the person you've lost, especially the anniversary of his or her death.

A relapse of acute grief can also occur somewhat out of the blue. For example, on any random day you may find out about someone who is battling the exact same cancer your loved one had -- and this might trigger your feelings of intense grief all over again.

Finally, some people never really feel better. As they attempt to adjust to life without the person they've lost, they find it virtually impossible to derive joy again. Sometimes this takes the form of clinical depression, which can be treated with medication or psychotherapy that may mitigate the intensity of grief symptoms. For some, the inability to reengage in life results in suicidal feelings or attempts. I mention these possibilities not to scare you but to underscore the value of getting help if you need it.

Many forms of help are available. Sharing your emotional pain will likely help you process it and also help you recover from the disabling parts of grieving. If you're fortunate enough to have supportive friends, family, or community to turn to, take advantage of that. If not, or if you'd prefer to speak with someone outside your circle of support or trust, consider pastoral or mental health counseling or a grief support group to help you work through the myriad feelings that you're experiencing.

For the type of person who just doesn't feel like talking about feelings at all, the two most reliable activities are vigorous exercise and creative expression. When spirits are low, it can be very hard to find the motivation to take on either of these activities, but the payoff is worth it. It's usually best to start with something that you've already done, so you're less likely to resist the activity. For example, if you're already a knitter, consider knitting a memorial scarf or hat. If you're a runner, you may want to commit to three runs per week. A knitter will have a harder time getting started with painting, and a runner will be less likely to launch a rowing campaign -- at least at the beginning.

However, you may also find that new activities beckon. Many grievers are drawn to gardening for the first time, for example. Notice which activities hold your interest even if you're experiencing poor attention span, a classic symptom of grief. It's entirely possible that these whispers of interest are pointing you toward activities that will help you heal.

The tricky task here is to engage actively in your recovery process while simultaneously trying not to force a speedy recuperation. There's no blueprint that fits every griever. Make yourself the architect of your new life and start drawing up plans -- even if you feel you haven't the energy to do so.

Community Answers

Msbarneybutt answered...

It is exactly what I expected, nothing more, nothing less. It IS an awful struggle to me having lost my TRUE "soul mate," I believe, but I do believe that he would want me to continue on with my life, no matter how miserable am so that we CAN & WILL be reunited again some day to live out eternity together.

At any rate, it is just soooo hard for me b/c I have no one in whom I can confide other than someone that must be paid to listen to me.

Thanks anyway.

The practical expert answered...

There is no predictable timeline as the change has to come from inside you. And don't be surprised if your life changes are all over the place and you have conflicting emotions too - that's normal.

  1. Utilize your support network of friends and family fully. If you don't have any, then you can go to support group meetings, attend centers where the focus isn't on grieving but you'll make new friends of which many will understand your circumstances because they've been there too. You can pay to see a therapist for a while to develop some better coping skills too.

  2. Don't neglect your health - eating a nutritious diet and getting exercise. If you don't, your body and mind won't have what they need to help you move forward.

  3. Change one room in the house. Remove some things, paint, move furniture, make the room more of what you would like. When ready, tackle another.

  4. Make a list of things you've wanted to do but either didn't have the time or never got around to it or didn't do because your spouse didn't like it. Once you make your list, try to implement one of them regulary and take pictures of you doing it, start a scrap album of your adventures, talk to your deceased about what you are doing, meeting new friends who like to do these new things. Example, I finally took an adult ed watercolor painting class and now have most of a room dedicated to doing it. I decided to try horseback riding again, sailing, skidoos and other things.

You'll gradually create your new life but it won't happen until you take action steps. Grief is ok but you still have to move on and only you can make that happen.

Friendma answered...

I am 76 years old and in November 2010 I lost the love of my life when he was 82. I read about all the usual remedies for dealing with grief, but at my age, I find it hard to figure out just what I really could or want to do. I was pretty independent during our long (56 years) marriage and I'm not falling apart due to having to make all decisions, handling bills, etc. that many widows face. But the finality of his death, the memories of all we had together just overwhelm me at times. Music that we enjoyed over the years just brings on more tears. Dining out with family when he's not among us is almost unbearable. I just don't know what or how to get on with whatever time I have left. Taking it day by day seems like a waste, yet I have no real interests anymore. Any suggestions?

Df57 answered...

My mother fought with me (loudly) at my sisters bedside immediately upon my getting there but just hours before she passed,I fled and did not return. It's always fight or flight for me with my mom. It got heated and I could not quiet her or get her to leave the room, Mom is 82 and was seriously enmeshed with my sister who had CP. I was very angry with my Mom that she kept me from saying goodby that night. But after a month of self help, I forgave my Mom and more importantly myself and I allowed myself to grieve and be grateful, that I got the best of my sister. I was there for 6 weeks prior during the weekdays fighting to get comfort and hospice and meds to my sister (Mom was reluctant). FORGIVENESS = a better healing process.

Tania e answered...

This is gonna sound bad. . . but I believe when we loose someone we really love we greave as long as we live.............. thats a referance to my mums death If we were in a love hate relationship and the relationship lasted 10 years we greive that long again........... thats a referance 2 my 7 year marrage and love that lasted 10yrs It takes a long time 2 process all the stages of grief and loads of time 2 come 2 terms with the loss. MEMORIES. . AND IF POSSIBLE TRY LETTING GO of our attachment 2 a possitive outcome. like.............LIFES NOT FAIR..............MY MUM PASSED AWAY FROM LUNG CANCER! She was just 70 years old. Had never smoked a day in her life. No -one elce in the family did either ................Mum and Dad had gone overseas back home 2 Croatia 4 a holiday............. and family reunion 4 mums big brothers 80th birthday............. 1 month after getting there she was in hospital.......... They susspected she had water round her heart...........A smarter Dr said go home now. 2 months before she died she had a diagnosis............Mum Had cancer in her lung, throut and heart...........a rear fast moving cancer...... she had done loads of tests before leaving NZ because for the last year she had this tickly throut that she just coulnt shake and couldnt stop coughing. . .one of the tests was the swallowing camera kind. . .if picked up nothing. neither did the dr who perscribed her asthma drugs and xrays. . . . .he saw nothing wrong..IT WAS A SHOCK. . . I NEVER EXPECTED MUM 2 DIE SO YOUNG AND QUICKLY AND IN SUCH AWAY........ I WAS COMPLETELY IN DENYAL 4 FAR TOO LONG... I refused to believe it . . . .saw my mum as bullet proof THERES NOT MUCH I CAN DO ABOUT THE PAST..... (But I am now a hospice volinteer and have trained in palliative care and nurturing touch massage. . .so I can be a comfort and a service to people who are dying and there families. And provide the same kind of support for the special needs people and families that i work with in my usual roll as a home support worker) .. . .SO I GUESS MY WAY OF GREIVING IS. . . .Getting Mad then Sad then GETTING INTO ACTION. . .GUESS I GOT THAT FROM MUM.............. I miss her. love you mum . you never ever thought of youself first. thanks 4 not dying on my birthday but the day b4. you always loved everyone tooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. there is no beter mum in the world............. then you were 2 me sorry for ever worrying you xxxxxxx ooooooo God help us. Lord Hear our Prayers

Rcb answered...

As a former professional Cemetarian / Family Service Director, I offer the added perspective on grief from this aspect. The impacts of grief can be eased by arranging for cemetery property & services IN ADVANCE. The same for any funeral choices & for disposal of the remains. In advance, two advantages: 1) clearer thinking of individual choices 2) less confusion / cost - to make numerous decisions while in a grieving, confused state. Unfortunately, most Americans are over-dependent on institutions to make care-decisions, or just wait until a death occurs before making choices for themselves or their loved ones. The result? Higher costs (discounts on cemetery property/services only available IN ADVANCE of need) - & funeral directors COUNT on AT TIME of need to have families spend so much more in a daze, without time to plan/think. FD's have been known to talk grieving widows into buying brand-new suits for interments!

Mark e. rosenberg answered...

As some of the others have stated, grief is a very p[ersonal thing and there is no single answers. BUT, there are things that you can do. Get some grief counseling....your local Hospice program most likely can help. Join a group, you're not the only person going throught this...talking to others can also help. Many people have let their grieving go on too long by not facing the issue and working on it. Like many other personal problems, ignoring it will not make it go away, and, dealing with the grief issue will make you feel better.

Mark Rosenberg

Elfie answered...

Grief is sly and spiteful. You cry until you think the river is dry and then it lowers itself again, like a boulder, onto your chest and steals your breath. The years passed and I tucked it away and moved on, but sometimes on a long quiet journey, when the music ends, it invades my thoughts and can still steal my breath.

We were both young, he had just graduated law school and less than a year later was killed in a drunk driving accident. The worst thing was coming home and the house was dark. I've lived and loved since then and have a wonderful son. It's a life seperate from the one I have now but seems to run parallel except it stops abruptly. I still wonder about what might have been and always feel a little sad. I accepted his loss and no longer grieve in that sense of the word but I always feel sad when the memory gets revisited. Does grief ever end or do we just get comfortable with it?

Kathy s answered...

I lost my soul mate 12/18/09. I didn't follow the so-called steps of grief. I'm blessed to be a strong, take charge person. But don't get me wrong . . . not a day goes by that I don't miss him and wish he were still here. My biggest regret is in not talking to him more when he was on his journey. I think I felt that I would be interrupting. Now I wish I would have. My only solace is that he knew how much I loved him, and the care I gave him in his final days. My saving grace is my online journal. My friends and family always knew I could write, but they've been amazed at what I've written in the blog. And it really HAS been a blessing. Many (some strangers) have told me how much it helps them, and others are thankful for the 'preparation' for when their time comes to deal with it. The journal isn't all about the loss, but my growth resulting from it as well. Feel free to look at it, but try to go back to the beginning, Oct. 2010, and read forward. www.kathy-graceunderpressure.blogspot.com Some just do not get through their grief, but it's possible . . . if they WANT to.

Mary francis answered...

You have to grieve to heal and it's a journey only you can take. But if you take the time to grieve and heal you will find that your life can be filled with blessings. You will start to follow your passion and find a purpose but first you have to grieve to heal. I healed by talking to other widows and putting their stories in a book called "The Sisterhood of Widows". I learned from those that had already taken the grief journey.

Mary Francis

Myjim24 answered...

its been a year since my deat husband passed away. as time goes by its worse, i realize this is it! what good can come of this. the loneliness is overwelming. i feel i cant go on with him, we were married almost 53 yrs, we were joined ath the hip always together. my life is over, yes i have children and grandchildren but they dont take the loneliness away or replace my jim. i will never recover from this--i dont care about anything and im not motivated to do anything.

Madre57 answered...

I'm with you...My husband of 38yrs. passed away june 2012 from cancer. People say time heals, no way for me as time goes by the reality hits you harder knowing that it's really over and he's really gone. we were together since 18 yrs..old. We lived in a mobile park and owned our home for 27yrs. He had lost his job 3yrs. prior to his death he had worked there for 28yrs. I had to sell our home while he was dying so I could bury him..I lost my husband, our home, our english bulldog I had to get rid of also...I can be around many people and I still feel lonely. To be honest I wish god would have taken me the same day he took my husband.

Badback4life answered...

My soul mate died 3 months before our 5 year anniversary. I am sick and tired of the terrible advice. I have a serious spinal condition that forces me to lie down most of the time. I can't physically do any of the things I want. It's hard to even sit and talk to a therapist for an hour. My health has deteriorated greatly since "he" died. I feel like my life is nothing more than pain, suffering and misery. He died suddenly and I found out he was dead while having coffee with my girl friends when a man came in and announced he was dead. I had months of therapy but I will never "get over it." He is not "in a better place." I am sad that we were robbed of our golden years together. All I do now is wait to be with him again. I am mad that we had no good bye...nothing. I am grateful he died quickly and did not suffer like I am.

Elfie answered...

While coping with my loss (we were both very young) someone said to me that although I couldn't see it now there's a light at the end of a tunnel, just know that it exists even though you don't believe in it yet. This light doesn't exist thru an entity unless you want to believe so. The lighted tunnel is for our mortal survival. I did find the tunnel but he never left and we lived a kind of parallel life and I quietly accepted it. I suffered PTSD at being violently blindsided and this was my safety. I eventually found someone I loved and we had a son but he still follows from a distance and I know he always will. It's OK. No words exist for the loss of a loved one but all words said are from true compassion and even a kind of helplessness, sad, that we can't make things better. The name of that tunnel is called time. It's there and it won't let you down.

Lostforever52 answered...

I don't know if you ever get over a loss, It has been eight months since losing my husband of eleven years to cancer. It still feels like it was yesterday. I have gone to counseling, taken medications and even spent money on a psychiatrist. It does get better but as far as getting over you never will, you will just learn to tolerate it, accept it and deal with it not one day at a time but one minute at a time.

Flyers525 answered...

I can relate to just about everything all of you grieving had said. I am feeling it all still almost 5 years later. The struggle is never ending and I see no light and am tired of struggling and am lost, empty, and feel so alone. I've had and am having or going through what you all are. Tired of the answers from people who don't help or I feel just don't understand. He was my world and I want our future back. Just am so sad, broken and lost. Tired of being depressed and hate that I feel stuck in this dark and empty hole. I try to find things to be happy about or listen to sayings/quotes but it don't help. I feel like it will never get better and I won't ever find peace or be happy. Suffering from depression prior to doesn't help either does the fatigue and not being able to stand on my own two feet. I read this and it seems to fit me... maybe you can relate.. wouldn't help to read. http://socialwork.columbia.edu/news-events/new-treatment-program-grief-won-t-end-0 Also if you are on facebook there is a page you can join that is a good place to talk. It is for those grieving a loss. It is called " Grief The Unspoken" If you would like to join us in our closed group we would love to have you(: https://www.facebook.com/groups/444481648928431/ Grief The Unspoken Closed Group

Welcome to the GTU closed group.As you can see GTU wants to be able to help our family be able to share how ever they need to.I hope this closed group helps.Sending hugs(: 2,141 members · Join Group

That is from facebook and they are on Pinterest too. It is a great place for all of us who have lost. My heart, thoughts and prayers are with all of you suffering, as I feel this unbearable pain too. God Bless. I hope we all find that peace we are seeking.

Cheechee answered...

I don't really know how to start this,but I'll try....Back in 1994,my Husband was diagnosed with Cancer(a lump in his mouth they removed)then as time went by he had horrible stomach pain,etc;Went back to Dr.said he needed Colonaskapy,To make this short"The Dr.told myself and children(3 Daughters,1 Son)to go home as it would be quite a while...I believe we were Not even Home a half an hour,And the Phone Rang(I was a total Wreck,as that was Fast)and it was the Dr."Bad News"Dr.Closed him up as He was Loaded with Cancer,said He might Live Maybe"6mo."..Dr.also said he did Not recommend Chemo>(It would just add to his Pain)So,I called the Dan Farber Inst.in Boston,Ma.and made App.I took him there,they checked him and Said,,,"Give Him Chemo!"so,we did..And He(God Bless Him)lived for"2more years"and I had a"Block"as when he passed away"Sept.9,1996"I was in Shock,I couldn't Believe This and Somehow,I ended up in the"Morgue"walking around in the dark,calling his Name,felt a body,and then another"And,I found Him!"...The Owners I guess heard me Talking to Him and came in,put the light on and Asked Me"How Did You Get In Here?"..I guess I was as Stunned as he was,as he told me The"2"Doors were Padlocked!!"So,I still don't Know nor do they!!It took me a Long Time(Psychiatrist Help)THEN..."10yrs."later on March 25,2006,My One and Only Son was Murdered,"2WKS."after his"29th"B-Day..I could Not,Again Believe This...I was in Total Shock!I was Devistated,He had been staying with me until he found an apart....I can still see him Standing in the Hallway as He was getting ready to go Work-Out...Next I remember"3"Police were at the Door......I was getting Worse and worse,As,I just Stared at the Floor,Couldn't eat,Had No Taste,Everything was shutting Down on Me,I had Lost"50lbs"and looked like I was Dying(As,I didn't care)....My Daughter took me to Hosp.and told them I was going to Commit Suicide!! I had went through"25 E.S.T.'S"(Electric Shock Therepy)Incase somebody didn't know what that was.I just totally pretend he Lives in Texas and will see him in a few years...Of course I have been battling with Depression,Anxiety,and Panic Attacks for a Long Time,way back in"1980"and finally am on Medication(In which has Helped a Lot)..The Psychiatrist told me I have been Suffering with"P.T.S.D."from Seeing My Brother Get Run-Over By a"Peter Pan Bus"on My"5th"B-Day and Never seen Him Again....So,"Greiving"I Do Not think I will ever Stop as,I see No End.....It is a Long Time(For Me,Anyways)...I guess I had a Long Answer....P.S.I have such a"Special Son"..On the nite of His Service..There were So Many that got up to Speak and Say"He Was Such A Big Loving Teddy Bear"(He was"6'2",and weighed"285lbs."..NO Fat,Just Muscle)He would always Take-care of the Handi-capped,(would not let anybody make-fun of them)He would go out of His way to help Anybody,He would Bring Young girls back to my Home(He did Not want them out on the streets by themselves or if their boyfriends threatened Them)The lovely Young Ladies that got up and said"If it hadn't been for"David"(my son)I wouldn't be here Today,The Elderly that Spoke about him,His Boss From where He Worked said"Fantastic Worker and Such a Sense of humor and He Always had a Smile on His Face"His Friends(Guys and Girls),Co-Workers said"He Always Would Lend a Helping Hand and That"Beautiful Smile"he had.....I'm Sorry....This is the first time I Have Really Talked about How Proud I Am of Him....So Caring and Loving...... So,God Yes...I'll Never Stop Greiving......

Jayedeen answered...

It has been four years and six weeks since we lost my dad. Not a day goes by I don't cry my heart out for him. Not a day goes by I don't expect my mom to call and say it was a mistake and he is home with her. Not a day goes by I don't expect to see him walk through a door. Not a day goes by I wonder why such a warm and giving man was taken when so much evil walks this earth. Not a day goes by I don't feel guilty that he was taken by cancer yet I survived cancer. I had breast cancer surgery the day after his death (it was a promise I made to him) and while our whole world has been blown up I am still here. I told God I would have traded places with my dad in a heartbeat. God either didnt listen or didnt care. Every day is like the day he died. It will never be better and i accept it as the price i pay for knowing such a wonderful, incredible man and for those who tell me to get over it I have nothing but pity because obviously they have never known real love.

Lhenry answered...

I lost my husband after 15 years of marriage and total of 20yrs together. It was so sudden, and im so angry and sad and cry alot. wish he was here so i can tell him things. use to talk all the time. we always thought i would be the one to go first, boy we were wrong, I wish i were the one first. Miss him so much. He was my find and always there for me, course we have children but they have there lifes. i feel so lonely alot of the time.just wish i could have one more day with him. i want to go now also.

Hurting bad answered...

Mom died over a year ago I have just begun to start to think clear i have brother and sisters who have made process worse brother who brought me to a suicidal state and a sister that helped seeking coy cling now but they got me to sign property over to them while I was still an emotional wreck. Now grieving loss of home also and loss of what family I thought I had. May take long time to get over this. Easy to make mistakes or be coerced into bad decisions while emotions are controlling a lot of thinking process. I had lived with mom all my life and 53 years is hard to forget. And move out of only home I ever knew because mentally badgers to give it up accused of robbing dat of family. Hard thing to live with. So don't make life changing decisions for at least 2 years. I was executor and that Mae things worse for me would surest if u are really close and have siblings refuse executor ship as this puts you Ina position to do what is right and if will not specific will can be interpreted indifferent ways and they can use this to manipulate and guilt u with. Just take plenty of time because this could make life worse. Like it did to me

Marcip answered...

My Mom died 5 months and 2 days ago (Jan. 5, 2015). I am the only child and my Dad died over 20 years ago. I've dealt with loss before -a premature daughter and a divorce. Yet, the death of my Mom has been the hardest thing I've ever experienced. The pain has gotten better, but I'm far from back to normal. It is in church that I feel the saddest. Church reminds me so much of my Mom. So, its hard to attend church and I don't go as often. I never thought I would still be grieving this long. I've been out of work for a 1 1/2 years and it's been hard to find work at age 51. I know God has plans for me. I'm an author. Still, this has been a very, very difficult time for me. Some days are better than others. Still I miss her so much. She truly was the wind beneath the wings of my success. Now, I don't even feel successful. It's really hard.I'm trying to keep pushing forward, but I'm starting to feel discouraged. Still I will not give up hope. -Missing Mom....still.

Roxie11 answered...

My beloved aunt who also cared for me like mother and was essentially my mother, passed away just 3 weeks ago.
I took care of her during the week leading up to her passing on and was able to be there in her final moments.

I am still feeling numb and exhausted. I sort of don't want to be in my own skin right now, meaning I just really really don't want to grieve.

Some of my friends have distanced themselves, mostly because they are uncomfortable with grief - one of my closest friends is afraid I believe, since her mother too is showing signs of declining. I forgive and understand why they can't really be here for me right now. Although I miss their support.

All I want to do is sleep and hide - so I am fighting that. Exercise helps. Being at the ocean helps. Distracting myself with work helps. It all helps take a bit of the edge off. Eating properly is helping - and I have allowed myself extra ice cream for the time being.

What doesn't help, is that someone asked me what I needed to do to feel better ... I had to really bite my tongue to not go into a tirade. - I tried to just remind myself that other folks just don't know what to do or say. I mean, on one hand I don't want to go through this (but must) and on the other hand I want to be however I need to be. And asking someone what they can do to feel better is just not at all helpful. It also helps to stay away from dysfunctional family members. I know they are grieving too - but I don't want to be at the wrong end of their anger or acting out in addictions.

I think what helps is knowing that others are going through a similar process as the same time.

So thanks to all of you for sharing.

A fellow caregiver answered...

No time is a good time to lose a person or a pet. Since I was in second grade I lost count of all the loved ones that I lost. About a year ago I lost a childhood friend that I have know for thirty years. Our beautiful bunny who only lived for eight years passed away last month. I remember the funny memories of them and laugh out loud even if I am in a store. I only regret that I never known my father before he died.

Amireallyhere answered...

it's so final. It's not about not spending enough time, or saying I love you, (for me) it's that they (our loved ones) are gone, where are you? Are you really there? Watching over our lives, guiding? How do I know? Looking for signs everywhere but not sure even when one seems real. How do you get over it? I don't think you ever do, it's what shapes us to become what we are.