What to Expect at the Start of Your Grief Journey

A guide through your first year with Lynn Allen, LBSW.

No matter where you find yourself after experiencing a significant loss, one thing is for certain: you can’t put a time limit on grief.

Many researchers will share that a grief journey may last between one to five years, depending on the intensity of the relationship of a loved one, those who’ve walked through it will share that grief is a lifelong journey.

While grief, in general, is full of many ups and downs, there are a few patterns that are similar across the board. Here are a few things you can expect your first year of coping with the death of a loved one according to Hospice & Palliative Care of the Piedmont Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker, Lynn Allen.

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  1. You Can Expect to Have Grief Attacks

You’ve heard of heart attacks. You’ve heard of panic attacks. 

Grief attacks work in similar ways. You may find yourself having a relatively good day, in the midst of battling your loss and suddenly have a wave of grief come upon you. This is completely normal and can come at unexpected times. The more prepared you are to know you’re likely to face them ahead of time, the more success you’ll have in navigating them healthfully.

  1. Be Prepared to be Surprised by Others

While some of your friends, colleagues and even family members may say the perfect thing that make you feel better, more than likely, you’ll run into people who don’t know how to respond or support you in your grief. You may experience a sense of abandonment from friends who you thought would be there for you.

However, you may also experience deeper and more profound support from those you never expected to.

  1. Expect Your Own Health to Be Impacted

A few months following a significant loss, the adrenaline of the season begins to wear off. The busyness of caretaking, making important end-of-life decisions, and funeral plans will subside. This is when your health can take a hit. The weeks or even months of neglecting your needs — whether you realize it or not — may eventually catch up with you. 

Remember to do your best to eat well and exercise regularly to avoid serious health concerns following the loss of a loved one. See your physician and rest well. 

  1. Look for Signs of Healing and Moving On 

At about the three-to-four-month period following a loss, you can expect to have some good days that intertwine with the bad ones. Healing will begin to take place and you may be able to look forward to the future and realize that the future – though it may not feel that way right now – is bright. 

Know that though grief is a lifelong journey, the sadness you’re experiencing will get better. Give yourself permission to enjoy life and to laugh again. It will happen, it will just take time.

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