Grief throws off your timing. After a loved one dies you may go backwards in time and be overcome with memories. Then the opposite happens. You look ahead and wonder how you will survive. Every day you think of your loved one. Indeed, you may feel stuck in grief.
The sixth anniversary of my daughter’s death was in late February. I wasn’t prepared for the tears or a friend’s reaction.When I mentioned the anniversary she replied, “I didn’t realize it was that long ago.” Six years didn’t feel long to me, yet they felt long to her. Some days my grief still feels fresh.
When a loved one dies people sympathize for a short time and move on with their lives. But ever since my daughter died each day I mourn a little. Don’t get me wrong. I have made progress and created a new and surprising life. Still, something will always be missing from my life and it’s my daughter. My husband feels the same way. “I usually think of her in the morning,” he admitted. “It’s painful.”
People who have experienced grief say it never goes away. I have found this to be true. That doesn’t mean I am still in the early, mid or late stages of grief. It does mean I have learned to live with loss. Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PhD writes about the length of grief in her Legacy website article, “How Long is This Grieving Going to Last?”
Neeld thinks there are two kinds of time, chronis and kairos. Chronis time is measured by calendar days, whereas kairos time is “the time within which personal life moves forward.” Though kairos is ordered time, it is unmeasured time.
Many people measure time by the number of years that have passed since their loved one died. According to Neeld, we can make use of this time and answer key questions. Some of my questions: What have I learned? Does my loss have meaning? Have I made good things from grief?
Based on her own experience and research, Neeld writes, “I can say this: the amount of time each of us takes to reach integration of our loss is usually longer rather than shorter.” In other words, we measure time the way need to measure it. Eventually, we realize loss has changed us.
Ruth Davis Konigsberg writes about coping with loss in her American Association of Retired Persons website article, “5 Surprising Things About Grief.” Her article focuses on widows and widowers. Koningsberg thinks mourners’ feelings are not consistent and vary from one day to the next. “We don’t grieve in stages at all,” she observes, “but oscillate rapidly.”
As time passes, the early, acute stage of grief is replaced by less intense feelings. As Konigsberg notes, “Loss is forever but thankfully, acute grief is not.”
No longer am I in acute grief. I am not living the same life either. Rather, I am living a new life I never envisioned. This is due to research, grief work, and a supportive husband. When my husband and I became guardians of our twin grandchildren we realized we had a new mission: To protect, nurture, and love our grandkids more each day.
This was, and continues to be, a sacred mission. Six years have passed since our daughter died and her twins are doing well, achieving in college, and excited about their plans. Their mother would be proud of them and, I think, of us.
Copyright 2013 by Harriet Hodgson
Updated: June 28, 2013