“How long does grief last?” Someone asked me the other day.
“You still write about it Christina, 11 years later. Are you still grieving?”
I don’t know, but something happens to me when I am asked these questions. I want to start laughing out loud.
You know that ironic laughter, that insinuates that this is a ridiculous question.
But then again it’s not their fault, is it now? Everyone wonders about how long someone should grieve or not grieve.
As you know I have my own ideas about this.
But I did a simple search online with the words “How long does grief last?” and oh my, I found so much out there.
So much repetition from advice given in the 70s and 80s and 90s.
And even in the last 20 years, the new advice given are just rewrites of the old advice.
Are you ready for this?
Here are some examples. Word for word.
–There is no set timetable for grief. You’ll probably start to feel better in 6 to 8 weeks. The whole process can last anywhere from 6 months to 4 years. (you can see the issue here)
–Grief itself may last a lifetime. (thanks for the hope)
-Gradually, at their own pace, most people do find themselves adjusting to their loss and slipping back into the routines of daily life. (I call that the Waiting Room)
-There are four tasks of mourning: accept the reality of loss, experience the pain of grief, adjust to the life without the person who died, withdraw emotional energy from the person who died. (hmmm, well now that you mentioned let me just withdraw my energy from the person I love)
And then I found my way also to some decent advice as well, like:
-grief has no timetable
-your grief is individual
-take time to go for a walk
-seek out caring people
But even these mean nothing to someone who is deeply missing their person.
Even the good advice can not make anyone feel better.
So, first I want to respond to the people who ask me the question “are you still grieving?”
The actual question is and always has been wrong.
It doesn’t exist.
It doesn’t mean anything to anyone who has lost the person they have been with for decades.
It’s like asking them, are you still sad about never seeing the person you lost?
So what should the question be?
The question I love getting is “how do you balance your new life with your old life after 11 years?
How do you honor both?
How are you able to access your grief while going on an adventure at the same time?
A few people have also said to me “You need to at some point stop writing about grief, this keeps you grieving.”
Now can you hear me laughing again? Loudly.
My mission to help millions of people exit the waiting room of loss and find their way to a new life does not keep me grieving.
It gives me purpose and it allows me to honor what happened to me in the best way possible.
Me talking about my husband who died 11 years ago makes me happy.
I love to share about who he was.
But have you noticed something?
I am not sharing my story of loss. Almost never.
The actual story of loss, or the moment of impact as I call it is a very traumatic event that if we revisit over and over again we build a solid place for it inside our brain.
We actually get attached to that location and we keep going back to it.
Going back to that story of the moment we experienced our loss actually keeps us in a state of automatic mourning.
How can we stop this from happening?
Don’t attend support groups that keep asking you to retell your story every time someone new joins the group.
There are members of support groups who are there for years, and they keep identifying their story with their identity. There was someone I remember clearly from the very first support group I went to, he had been there for 4 years, retelling his story of loss.
When someone asks you whether you are still grieving or not hold their hand.
And say “I know where this question is coming from, but it is kind of irrelevant to my life. What I am experiencing is more than just grief, it is the falling down and the getting back up on a daily basis.
It is the hiding inside my house and the crazy outing when I force myself out.
It is the not knowing of myself with the knowing that I am becoming.
It is the smile with tears combined.
It is the remembering while creating a new life.
I call it Life Reentry, and that will never end.
So next time you ask me about how I am doing, ask me how is my life reentry going. Will you?@SecondFirsts (Click to Tweet!)
With reentering and reentering and reentering,
Christina Rasmussen is the creator and founder of The Life Reentry Institute, Second Firsts, The Life Starters and Star Letters. Christina is on a crusade to help millions of people rebuild, reclaim, and relaunch their lives using the power of their own minds. Christina’s work has been featured on ABC News, NPR, The White House Blog, and MariaShriver.com. She is the bestselling author of Second Firsts: Live, Laugh, and Love Again, which has also been translated in Chinese and German and is currently working on her second book on expanding the mind in ways that allows co-creation with the forces of the universe. She is also writing her first work of fiction: a science fiction story about a woman on a quest to start over and begin a new life. You can find more information on her website and follow her on FB or Twitter.
Image courtesy of Tobi.