Recently a bereaved client asked me the following question: “People say time heals all wounds. But I miss my husband more now than I did when he died four months ago. What’s wrong with me?” In response, I explained that many people worry they aren’t “grieving correctly” because they expect to feel increasingly better as time goes on. In reality, it is not uncommon to feel worse, rather than better, a few months after the death. Most people have the strong support of family and friends in the early weeks after the death. As time goes on, you may feel as though everyone else has gone back to their routines whereas you are facing the day-to-day realities of trying to live with the absence of your loved one. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that can hit you as another wave of grief washes over you. Do you catch yourself thinking, “I can’t wait to tell him … ” or, “I wonder what she’ ll say about that?” If the person who died loved a certain brand of cereal, you may find yourself crying in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. These reminders are so difficult to adjust to.
Although it may not feel like it, you are heading in the right direction. As you face and address the many daily reminders of how your life has changed, you slowly begin to adjust. It takes a while for your heart to ackn0wledge what your mind already knows. You truly no longer have your loved one in the physical, present sense you are used to. This is something you only gradually are able to come to terms with.
As you eventually discover what is most helpful in getting you through these difficult times, you will find ways in which your love remains. Although your life is very different from before, many bereaved people do acknowledge that it starts to get better and easier to live with. It’s not just time, it is what you do with that time that helps you heal. A bereaved father once said “Time only heals if you work between the minutes:’ By working through those grief waves, those difficult moments, you are changing your relationship to your loss. You begin to see it from a different perspective.
Eventually you will realize that the love you have for that person continues. You start to figure out what helps, whether it is a suppcrt group, talbng tc a trusted friend, or taking on a new project or interest in honor and memory of your loved one. Your life will once again become meaningful and even enjoyable. That chain of love that was such a strong part of your relationship is still there as you move forward into this new chapter of your life. It will probably take longer than you want it to, but trust the process and the time it takes.
– Patti Anewalt, PhD, LPC, FT, is Director of the Pathways Center for Grief & Loss with Hospice & Community Care. An excerpt from the August 2022 Journeys Bereavement Newsletter.