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.