Is There a Timeline for Grief?

This series will explore common grief questions and experiences. While we hope this information can be helpful, we know each person experiences grief differently. Please feel free to reach out for additional support and resources.

Wish versus reality - ways of problem solving / solution finding

When it comes to the relationship between grief and time, it’s common to hear the following questions:

  1. What should I be feeling at this stage in my grief?
  2. How do I start feeling better?
  3. When does grief end?

We’ll address each of these questions over the next few weeks.

Before we get into this week’s question about stages of grief, let’s start with answering the more urgent question that often drives all three: Is it okay for me to (still) be feeling this way?

There are several reasons why it can feel like we need permission for how we’re feeling. We may feel like it’s wrong to feel a certain way or for too long. We may feel pressure from those around us who seem to think we should have “moved on” by now. Our society tends to be uncomfortable with conversations about death, grief, and loss, and emotions that are perceived as negative.

Not only is it okay, it’s healthy to acknowledge and accept your feelings and yourself, exactly where you are right now. There are no right or wrong ways to feel. As painful as some feelings can be, they give us information about our wants, needs, expectations, and limits. Being able to communicate this information is crucial to caring for ourselves and others.

The question of what we should be feeling at a certain point of our grief can also be motivated by an assumption that grief is a linear process.

Many people are familiar with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It may be helpful to think of each stage as emotional states that we occupy simultaneously, return to frequently, or even skip altogether. As much as we might like grief to follow a straight line towards acceptance, the reality is often more complex. Embracing that reality gives us freedom to fully honor our grief as we make our way through it.

It may bring comfort to hear that there are no wrong ways to grieve, and no timeline to follow. It may also provoke frustration or anxiety, wondering when and how grief will start feeling better. Next week, we’ll explore the needs and tasks that grief experts believe are helpful to address. In the meantime, remember to be gentle with yourself, make time for self-care, and know that you can always find support from United Tissue Resources.

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