How Long Does Grieving Take?
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? (Ps. 13:1-2)
Loss is not always sudden, like it was for Job (Job 1:13-19). Sometimes it’s gradual. Sometimes it comes in stages. The same goes for grief.
Years ago, after my mom died of a brain hemorrhage, a friend described it to me this way: “Paul, your loss was sudden, instant, unexpected. Ours was gradual. Dementia stole our dad from us little by little. It felt like we said a thousand goodbyes before he was finally taken from us, physically.”
This difference is valuable to recognize because, just as loss can take place over the space of time, so does your grief. Grief is common to all, but it’s also unique. Certainly there are many similarities, but no two people grieve exactly the same way, or according to the same timetable. Rarely, if ever, does the process look the same.
Perhaps a friend of yours seems to have gotten over his grief more quickly than you. If so, be careful. Comparison rarely produces good fruit. Perhaps you are “getting past” your grief more easily than others. If so, be careful. Resist judging them. Be patient. Be faithful to walk through their valley with them. Grieving often takes longer than you expect.
“Time heals all wounds,” so they say. But is that really true? Yes, time gradually allows you to distance yourself from the initial cause of pain. But time—in and of itself—does not heal. God is your healer (Exodus 15:26). By his Spirit and through his Word, he will gradually minister to your heart in his own time and way.
How quickly you heal is not important. What’s important is that you are moving forward a little bit each day—from grief and pain, and toward acceptance and joy—and that you are helping others to do the same. When grief turns inward, and remains there, it becomes self-pity, which, when nursed, can easily turn your hurt into an idol. You know this has happened to you if your current hurt, or fear of future pain, becomes a reason for not obeying God’s two great commands command to love him or others.
So take your pain to him like the Psalmist did. Take your longings to him. Talk to the Lord about your grief. He is always faithful. He is the one who makes “everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11).
[RESOURCE: Comfort the Grieving]