Grief changes and evolves over time. In healthy grieving, the acute intensity and frequent oscillation of moods and emotions lessens. The wound and the loss remains but it is accepted and adjusted to without any pathology. Yes, dates, or memories can push forward emotions and tears, but one is able to function.
Still, as grief proceeds forward, the griever notices multiple changes in life that he or she must adjust to, in addition, to discovering less social and public support of others. As time proceeds, the individual loss becomes more personal and well wishers seem to vanish little by little. It is important to grieve properly throughout the grieving process to avoid potential complications in grief. This is why it is so important to do one’s “grief work”.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.
Grief and loss are not simply one moment in time but a continual wave and ripple throughout one’s life. A person’s loss creates an unfillable void. This is expected because the love is unique and special. It can never be replaced but overtime, the acute grief becomes less sharp but still nonetheless, very present in the shadows. As time proceeds, grief does not leave but it evolves. Although one may adjust to the loss in a healthy fashion, the pain and loss can re-emerge in moments, or re-appear at certain places or times. Grief overtime is a constant pressure that reminds one of the loss but at different intensities and in different types of emotions throughout the years. The long trek of not having someone is a life long trek and one that everyone eventually experiences.
The article, “Grief Years Later: 4 Challenges” from Eleanor Haley of “What’s Your Grief” presents an excellent outline of experiences and feelings individuals feel throughout the years following a loss. She discusses issues of lost validation of the loss, secondary losses that emerge, memories becoming less vivid and more abstract, and loss connections over time. She states,
“It’s not for me to predict how anyone will feel about their loss years down the line. Hundreds of different factors can influence the roads people take, the perspectives they find, and the things they make peace with. What I can say about grief years later is that many people continue to revisit and grapple with their loss experiences in an ongoing way. I don’t say any of this to scare you. I simply want anyone feeling surprised, frustrated, or dysfunctional because they’re still tripping over their losses to know they’re capital ‘N’ normal.”
“Grief Years Later: 4 Challenges”. Haley, E. (2023). “What’s Your Grief”‘
Haley brings up many good points which we will look at in more detail in this blog.
First, as Haley references in her article, the first year of grief and even the second are perhaps the most difficult. The acute sharp pain of the loss stabs the heart. The new and unwanted existence of living without a person is difficult to navigate. And within the year and next year, constant holidays and reminders haunt and tear the emotional scab open again and again. However, as time goes one, grief becomes less acute. While it can come and go in waves still, overall, unless complications, the grief is less intense overall. The pain becomes more numb and can only be aroused if one focuses on the loss.
Other emotions also exist as grief evolves though. Instead of just pain and regret, there can be joy and happiness. A joy in pleasant memories that can bring a smile to a person. Happiness knowing the person is in a better place or no longer hurting. Or even a gratitude for being able to share the time one had with each other. Other positive emotions emerge. The yearning for reconnection remains but positive emotions also exist side by side. For those of religious backgrounds, a hope also returns of a reunion in the next life.
Haley references the fading of vivid memories and the emergence of more abstract memories. While some memories may be vivid, as time proceeds, certain scents, features, and traits may seem more distant. The fear of losing memories is one of the biggest fears of the grieving. This is why so many things are kept. Items, some clothing and other articles are sometimes kept to maintain a healthy connection. This is why it is so important to collect pictures, journal and write down emotions surrounding the loss. As time goes forward, one can then return to those notes or pictures and again remember the past. In addition, dreams play a key role in remembering. While traumatic incidents will constantly haunt one in a unhealthy way, others sometimes find pleasance in the dream of a loved one. Some may even believe this is a visit from the afterlife. As time proceeds, many find such dreams to be peaceful, while others who suffer from more serious trauma surrounding the death may find it to be more of a nightmare.
Haley mentions secondary losses as a changing reality as grief proceeds through time. If a widow, one may find less income as the years go by. As a widower, one may not go to certain festivals or movies anymore without one’s wife. As an adult child, one may no longer go to the old family home. Others may find difficulties with certain tasks that were provided by the other spouse. No longer is there someone to wash the clothes or cook or mow the yard. These instances are cold reminders of the original loss but also the lingering pains associated with the loss itself. In addition, Haley states that many lose past connections. Individuals that once were common in one’s life over time are less seen since the deceased died. Maybe certain friends no longer visit as time goes on and individuals within a family become more distant since the patriarch or matriarch of the family has passed. Holiday traditions may pass with the passing of time as well. These are all markings of grief overtime itself. If one loses a child, maybe the individual overtime feels he/she is no longer a parent? Not being able to experience graduations, weddings, and becoming a grand parent can become haunting reminders over the time of what was lost.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, Haley illustrates that many individuals are no longer validated in their loss. The initial checkups, flowers, sympathy cards, and calls become less and less. While the loss still hurts, other individuals have moved on in life. Others may grow tired of discussing the loss and may avoid. Others may no longer know how to talk about the loss and feel to remain quiet. Still others may become irritated and push one to “get over it”. These are all issues that the grieving face as grief ages over time.
A loss is not a singular moment in history but a wave of titanic proportions that affect one’s life forever. While this may seem terrifying, it is true but also good. It is good because it means someone was loved and meant that much to you and they cannot be replaced. Overtime grief changes for good and bad but one must continue to adjust and adapt to the loss as grief ages overtime.
Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.
“How Grief Changes Over Time”. Dembling, S. (2023). Psychology Today. Access here
“Can You Grieve a Death Almost 30 Years Later?”. Sandler, E. (2017). Psychology Today. Access here
“Grief 10 Years Later”. Granek, L. (2015). Huffington Post. Access here
“DOES GRIEF GET MORE CHALLENGING AS TIME GOES ON?”. Gemima, C. (2022). GriefHeal.org. Access here