How long can grief last?
The medical perspective seems to point at grief lasting from a few months to a year. Some define prolonged or excessive grief as over a year, sometimes two. Though, if you search for anecdotal accounts, there are many that point out that grief doesn’t go away. Or that it lingers far longer than they anticipated. At times it’s referred to in a way that sounds like it’s some journey down a path in life. Poetic lines are scratched onto images to romanticize the experience. Perhaps the contrast is that there is a difference between the medical definition and the way that grief is defined by the person who is experiencing the loss.
For months, maybe longer, I was surprised that my husband wasn’t in the adjacent room. I’d walk into the living room, expecting to see him sitting on the couch, maybe watching television. But there was no husband waiting in the next room. The television screen would be dark, no one sitting at the couch. Instead, there would just be surprise and the realization, again, that I would never see him again. Is that grief?
I would never sit next to him again. I would never hug him again. I would never talk to him or listen to him laugh ever again. The sting of those realizations was constant. The deep pangs of loneliness slammed into me intermittently. Is that grief?
The hurt, the pain, began to lessen, though. Nightmares of the suicidal scene gave way to conversations with my husband. At first he was angry, then sad, then just a friend that would speak to me. Is that grief being processed?
Am I grieving still?
I think that impact of my husband’s suicide is still affecting me today. My children, especially my oldest, is grieving deeply over his father. In short, yes. We miss him often, we speak of him often, and the impact that his suicide has on this family and our lives is one that has had far reaching consequences.
His loss is felt daily. Every milestone with our children is a reminder that he isn’t here to see them. His children still yearn for him. His oldest struggles with all of this. The suicide negatively impacts many aspects of our life. But the pain isn’t as sharp. And we can speak of him freely without crying. There are many good memories that I relay to our boys. Equally, there are days that we don’t speak of him, not because we forget but because life has continued.
Our new normal has started and continued. Perhaps grief is short-term. The loss and its effect, however, is forever.