When we lose someone we love, we can feel a whirlwind of emotions that makes our heads spin. From sadness to anger, denial to hopelessness, grief is a complex experience. It can come as a surprise later down the road that our grief is still there. Sometimes memories can bring a flood of emotion back. And you may feel like your grief has lasted longer than it should. Or you’re experiencing grief that you thought was in the past. This is normal. Grief may never go away— it just changes. It might be helpful to understand why you may still be grieving and what you can do to process your grief.
Burying the Grief
While grief can be all-encompassing, people still have lives and responsibilities to attend to. This is one of the reasons we might bury our grief: it just feels like too much to deal with on top of everything else we’ve got going on.
Another reason you might bury your grief is simply because it hurts too much. This is totally understandable—but is likely to result in those painful feelings surfacing again later. Dealing with your grief head on is painful, and sometimes scary. But it’s ok to feel your feelings. In fact, it’s the most direct path to healing.
The opposite of burying emotions like sadness, anger, and other emotions, is allowing. Many of us have been taught not to express our feelings for most of our lives. So this may feel strange at first. But ultimately, allowing the feelings to be what they are is key to processing them in the healthiest way possible.
Prolonged grief can lead to mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in some cases. This isn’t wrong or bad. Allowing ourselves to truly feel and process our grief can help us improve our mental health. There are different resources and coping strategies—like journaling to express your feelings or being mindful of our emotions—that can help you allow yourself to feel and process your grief.
Loss of Control
One scary part about losing someone you love is realizing that you have less control than you thought. Your natural reaction may be to become more controlling in other aspects of your life. But this can create more anxiety and may contribute to a prolonged period of grief.
While it might not be easy at first, accepting that you don’t have control of everything will ultimately help you with your grief. And it may allow you to approach everyday situations from a calmer place—which is ultimately good for your mental health.
When Grief Becomes a Bigger Issue
Unprocessed grief can take over our ability to function. If we don’t give ourselves time and space to process our grief, then it can lead to mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. For example, we may find ourselves not wanting to leave the house. Or we may not want to connect with others or do things that we used to.
If your grief is affecting your daily life or your ability to take care of yourself, then it’s time to reach out for support. Consider talking to a friend or loved one or joining a support group so you don’t have to carry your grief alone. You may also want to reach out to a mental health professional. There are ways to process your grief that allow you to continue living a healthy life.
It’s natural to miss those you’ve lost. But you deserve to process your grief and heal.
When we are embedded deep within our grief, moving on seems impossible. It feels like it takes over our whole lives, and in some cases, it can. But eventually, somewhere down the road, you will begin to feel lighter, more like yourself, and better able to remember your lost loved one with smiles rather than tears. In many cultures we continue to grieve, but the form changes by celebrating the loved ones we lost every year. This time that you set aside to think about someone is a way to remember them without overwhelming sadness.
Everyone’s timeline and process for feeling grief is different, and there’s no right or wrong about it. However long it takes you to process your grief is the right way for you. Be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up about how long your grief is lasting will only make you feel worse… and it won’t change the fact that you’re still grieving. If you feel that you are experiencing a mental health issue that is more than grief, consider taking a mental health test.