Putting a Limit on Grief?

How long does grief last?

Should we all agree on a period of time that is reasonable for mourning a death, or a loss?

These are questions that are asked by psychiatrists when they are revising the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – also known as the psychiatrists’ bible.)

But how do you put a limit on grief? Is two years too long for the death of a marriage? Is five years too long for the loss of a child? Is eight years too long for repeated abuse? Is ten years too long for a genocide?

Surely grief doesn’t follow some set timeline.

And perhaps we shouldn’t ask it to fit into a box.

Taking a Deeper Look at the Dark Emotions

In fact, perhaps the dark emotions we associate with loss, like sorrow and despair, aren’t really dark at all. Perhaps they are quite normal, and deserve much more respect.

Why? Because they tell us crucial things about the human heart.

They tell that we love.

That we’re able to love.

That we greatly value love.

And we long to be loved too.

This means that the loss of something precious and loved is a terrible, heartbreaking, distressing thing.

It something we never, ever wanted to happen.

And something that we wish we could reverse …

And yet we can’t.

Society and the Dark Emotions

So perhaps the dark emotions – as society describes them – are called the dark emotions not because they are wrong … but because most societies can’t handle them.

Hence, it wants us to repress them, and pretend they aren’t there.

But when we, and other people, cannot tolerate these feelings – when we are expected to act as if we’re absolutely fine – then we’re left alone in that pit of pain and shame.

That is not a good thing.

A Better Solution

Instead, if we can give ourselves permission to walk towards our pain, and to honestly experience all the awful, dark then, in time, we’ll likely travel to the other side of grief. To that place where light and darkness are in balance, once again.

And that is much more likely to heal us in the end.        

33 thoughts on “Putting a Limit on Grief?

    • Even though my grandma was a brilliant, successful woman, she was haunted her entire life in some form by the death of one of her children in childhood. Part of that was circumstance because therapists and psychology wasn’t caught up with understanding grief in her time. She did go to therapy in the 60s, but ultimately it’s become a lesson years after her normal death. I feel like I’m breaking decades of psychological chains in my family. All on top of my own problems. It’s exhausting.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Bless you. Yes it is exhausting. My father passed when I when I was 13 and I’m 52 now. I used to work in Intensive Support with teenagers and about 14 years ago I attended a grief workshop training with regards to working with young people. Within the first 30 minutes, I realized that I was grieving terribly. Not only was it a profound learning it was also devastating because I’d struggled throughout my life and really didn’t understand why? I am grateful for the insight. I wish you well 🙂

        Liked by 4 people

      • It’s interesting just how long unresolved grief stays buried inside us. I’m glad you attended that workshop, and I’m glad you gained such insights and healing because of it. Thanks for sharing from your experience.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I’ve often thought about how difficult it must have been to deal with the tragedies of life in previous generations. There seems to have been so much pressure to accept that life is tough, swallow it, and make the most of what you still have that is good. It’s wonderful that you have had the courage to go into therapy yourself. Yes, it’s exhausting. Very exhausting. But worth it.

        Liked by 3 people

  1. I still grieve for the child i was not allowed to be. But other grief, like that of my grandparents took at least five years and some days, 8 years later I’m not sure I’m over my gramps dying. Grieve is unknown. I don’t know how oyu would put it in the the DSM.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Those profound losses cut very deep. You never get your childhood back ….
      I agree, it seems very strange to put grief and mourning in the DSM when it is such a natural and inevitable part of life. Thanks for reading and commenting, Looking for the Light!

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I love how you put this.
    I don’t think there should be a time limit on grief, no matter what someone may be grieving. Recently I’ve been thinking grief is just a way we process a deep emotional event. As we go through the phases of grieving, it helps us find our own personal coping mechanisms within time. There could be something one person might grieve that another necessarily wouldn’t. I think it depends on the individual, personal circumstances, emotional distress. It’s just one of the millions differences that make us all unique in our own way.
    Personally, I do believe grieving is good for us. It allows us to let go and let out the feelings deep inside. I don’t think it’s healthy to keep that all bottled up inside.
    It’s a way of accepting, releasing and inevitably moving forward. That’s just how I’ve been thinking what grief is for me.
    I know I’ll be grieving my Jace for the rest of my life….💛

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks for sharing this Aimee. And thanks for adding the comment: “I think it depends on the individual, personal circumstances, emotional distress. It’s just one of the millions differences that make us all unique in our own way.” Yes, so true. Everyone’s journey is unique, and what helps at any point in time will be different. I’m so very sorry for your loss of Jace … It should never have been this way ….

      Liked by 3 people

      • 💛
        Thank you. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate everyone’s condolences and kind words of support through here. If only the world knew how private I normally am. Trusting people is a pretty big issue for me. This website is an enormous step outside my comfort zone!
        I’m dreading the day it hits me and accept it in its entirety. I’m just not ready yet and my grief therapist agrees it’s way too early for me….I’m not yet close to that phase (whatever you call the steps). Honestly, I feel like the pain will just break me or give me a heart attack….
        Btw…off I go onto a different thought lol…I’m curious to see what my grief counselor thinks about “Time Limits” for grief….🤔 hmm

        Liked by 2 people

      • What you’ve gone through is unimaginable. I’m glad you have a grief therapist there to support you. I get where you’re coming from when you say it’s too early to move to the next phase. This is a grief that is going to be brutal, and is likely to take a while …. as long as you need! Thanks for having the courage to share here.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Your thoughts strike at the heart of a crippling problem in our society—the unseemly dark emotions we are encouraged to deny and repress.
    After watching my own father die, I kept replaying the scene over and over. The more I tried to stop it the worse it became. Finally, I ask a friend—a Vietnam vet who struggles with PTSD, “How do I stop these pictures in my mind.” To my surprise he told me, “You don’t. “.
    His advice was to not fight the difficult emotions and images, but to let them pass over you instead—like a storm. I started doing this: not fighting my visions of dad dying, and it really helped.
    Thank you for yet another helpful piece. Blessings.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m so glad you shared with the Vietnam vet, and he gave the advice he did. And I’m glad that you were helped by not fighting the visions. I imagine they were very distressing, and not how you wanted to remember your father. Definitely dark times.
      I always appreciate the comments you share from your own experience. Have a great week, Dave.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Every person suffers from grief through life. Grieving, as you mention, is a great gift. Textbooks don’t match the guilt one suffers, or self suffers. Grief has this added ingredient many Doctors don’t understand. Example: I lost my Son to a human-made accident. This kind of grief components is many. With shock comes fiscal vomiting pain. You’re in a glass broken looking out isolated. Reality slips away. I remember standing at the door watching car go by yelling inside ” don’t you know what happened, my baby son died.” No one stops. Then if you walk outside people run across the road trying to escape you like you have a catching virus. Marriages break down—Strange place to be. ” It’s my fault how dare you to say it’s your fault.” That’s the nasty side to grief but a common problem.
    Then a Doctor arrives on the scene trying to steal your grief from you. Another one is stealing your guilt. Parents use the Word “if Only” over and over. Normal behaviour. Oh yes, the Doctor medicates you cause his child didn’t die! How would he know? The saga goes. This is my true story. The moral to this story is: I have a Masters degree 🎓 in a Doctorate of Philosophy. Nothing I wrote here is in the textbooks, as a Public speaker concerning childhood casualty. One question from the audience comes up ” do you hate God for taking your child? ” that question I welcome as this opens the Pandora box subject ” guilt.” ” Thank you a wonderful question,” I say with my arms up. ” every day I thank God for welcoming my Son into the arms of God safely”……. Next question…” But I don’t believe there’s a God ” you must be a religious church nut.” ( common thought) those comments are usually asked by people who haven’t lost a child. People who are the minority who attend are mostly students from the university. The big question is ” Guilt” How do I handle the guilt” before I can heal! That’s my reason I’m here to show you a way to own the guilt so nobody is able to steal it from you!” You see grieving encompasses guilt.! Guilt is that bottle you get locked in, you are drowning, you can’t breathe. I allow them to feel these words. If I show you a way to own that guilt and show you how to turn that into solace without being told by all your not guilty denying those feelings you love to punish yourself with. Would you listen to me and sit with me. Ownership of your feelings are paramount to heal your soul. Footnote : I do not have any afflictions with an religious order. I am a Buddist Nun walks with no shoes as Jesus did on earth. Of little possessions. No face just a pebble on the ocean trying to fit in Shalom 🙌 sending light and love 💥💫

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Thank you for posting and well said. Recently we lost our son at 24 years of age. I know I’ll never stop grieving. With time I hope I’ll get to the place you beautifully describe as ‘travel to the other side of grief. To that place where light and darkness are in balance, once again’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so very sorry for your loss. That is tragic. The pain must be unbearable. I have a 25 year old daughter and can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose her. Thinking of you ❤️


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