Does Grieving End? What If Your Grief Gets Worse?

Every relationship you have in this world is entirely unique and irreplaceable. Therefore, each grieving process also represents a one-of-a-kind experience. How you cope with loss depends on so many conditions, and the way you manage grief can change throughout your lifespan.

It’s a misconception that grief naturally gets better in a chronological fashion. Few processes in life are ever that linear, and most people find that certain feelings ebb and flow.

But sometimes grief feels completely overwhelming. What causes this bottomless emotion? And how do you move through it gracefully or even effectively? Let’s get into what you need to know.

Understanding The True Essence of Complicated Grief

Complicated grief refers to a chronic, prolonged, and heightened state of grief. Sometimes this is known as prolonged grief disorder. That said, many forms of grief are actually quite complicated, and almost everyone experiences some form of intense, residual grief at some point in their lives.

It’s important to note that grief itself doesn’t have a specific timeline. There’s no “normal response” for how you should feel or cope after a loss.

That said, the nature of worsening grief can feel like:

  • feeling completely consumed by your grief for most of the day
  • feeling like you’re stuck in thoughts and feelings about your loved one
  • complete detachment and numbness
  • suicidal ideation or the desire to be dead to join with your loved one
  • extreme self-blame/responsibility for what happened
  • feeling that life isn’t worth living or that it will always be devastating

These symptoms do not indicate that anything is wrong with you. However, they can feel extremely painful and tumultuous, particularly in the early stages. They may persist for several months, and they can arise many years after the loss occurs.

Is It Normal For Grief to Get Worse As Time Passes?

The cliche has it that time heals all sorrows. But in reality, the healing process is far more nuanced.

Some people feel surprised that their grief feels more intense several months of years after the loss. If you had any unfinished business with the person who died, the feelings may be even more amplified.

Here are some explanations as to why grief may feel worse after the major loss settles:

You had to dramatically change your life/routine: If your loss significantly impacted daily functioning, the grief often feels far more intense. Losing a spouse, for example, may mean you’re suddenly scrambling to complete the tasks they normally executed. You may find yourself feeling insecure, angry, or resentful that you’re left behind to pick up the pieces.

You feel like you’re living in a way that would disappoint them: Some people feel ashamed if they aren’t living up to their loved one’s expectations. This feeling might be heightened if you two shared a complicated relationship.

You feel guilty for experiencing happiness: Many people face an internal conflict at some point during their healing process. They feel guilty when they notice themselves enjoying small moments throughout the day. They also sometimes feel guilty when they temporarily “forget” about the loss. This guilt can stunt you from making positive choices that will help you feel better.

You’re approaching a significant holiday or anniversary: Throughout the year, certain days will be harder than others. Many people struggle with winter holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. Developing new rituals may feel like a betrayal, particularly if you always spent that time with your loved one.

You have other mental health conditions: Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can complicate grief. These conditions can generally make it harder to take care of yourself, and when that’s the case, you may feel even more vulnerable to grief’s impact.

You’re having a different grief experience than a friend or family member: It’s not uncommon to compare grief experiences. But you may find yourself feeling insecure, frustrated, or confused by your emotions when you compare them to someone else’s.

How Do You Start to Heal With Grief?

There’s a misconception that you heal from grief. Instead, most people find that they tend to heal with grief. In some ways, true grieving never ends. You learn how to live your life amid a painful loss, and the feelings of sadness, anger, or loneliness wax and wane over time.

For most people, the healing process typically includes the following components:

Acknowledge Your Grieving Emotions

When you feel grief, it’s completely normal to feel combinations of betrayal, guilt, shock, distress, and relief in the aftermath of a loss. However, many people are conditioned to dismiss or deny their reality.

Every intense emotion is a real and valid emotion. You are justified in feeling sad or confused. You are allowed to make space for those emotions, and they represent a natural response to being a human who cares about love, connection, and relationships.

Seek Healthy and Uplifting Support

Grief can feel isolating, and this can be true even if you’re in the company of other family members or friends. But surrounding yourself with a healthy support system can be an essential part of your healing process.

Many people find that connecting with a grief support group helps provide camaraderie and a sense of resilience. Likewise, a group grief counselor provides a sense of professional safety and structure as you discuss sensitive topics.

Things are forever changed, and you’re not the same person anymore. With that, you may never stop wishing for your loved one to return, but you’re also not alone in feeling this way. If you have endured a significant loss, keep in mind that other grieving people can offer tremendous compassion and wisdom to other grieving people.

Being Mindful of Unhealthy Coping Strategies

Many people respond to grief and loss with behaviors that ultimately exacerbate more pain.

If you struggle with issues like substance abuse, self-harm, disordered eating, or other impulse control issues, you may find yourself even more vulnerable at this time. This also applies if you’re in sustained recovery from such patterns.

These coping solutions may provide you with a welcome distraction when coping with grief. But, over time, they often worsen your emotional state and create more complications.

Continue Taking Care of Yourself

You may not feel like the same person after enduring a loss, but you are still a whole person with whole needs. Self-care can be a confusing concept, but it largely refers to striving to pay attention to your boundaries and emotional well-being.

Small steps matter, even if you feel numb. Spend time with people who feel emotionally supportive. Engage in hobbies or activities that bring you joy and purpose. Try to eliminate (or avoid) situations that leave you feeling depleted or resentful.

Let Go of Being the Strong One

Sometimes the strongest person is the one holding the most grief and agony. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look after others, but you’re worthy of needing emotional support yourself.

This is where asking for help can make a difference. You’re allowed to reach out for what you need. You’re also allowed to have emotions and break down. You don’t have to just trudge through and act as if you’re unfazed by what happened to you.

Honor Your Loved One Deeply

Symbolic rituals, charity donations, and simply talking about your loved one with family members can be an important part of your healing process. This is true in the early days after a loss, but it also matters in any stage of honoring a death.

It’s also important to safeguard your grief boundaries. For example, if you don’t want to participate in a certain part of the grieving process, you’re not obligated. If certain support groups make things feel worse, you don’t have to attend.

Seeking Professional Grief Support With a Mental Health Professional

Although there isn’t a right or wrong way to cope with grief, intense emotions can certainly impact how you move through daily life. Feelings of excessive guilt, hopelessness, or extreme cynicism may prevent you from living in the present moment, nurturing other important relationships, or taking care of yourself.

Grief counseling offers a compassionate path for coping with intense grief. This time and space are entirely dedicated to you. In grief work, there are no good or bad emotions, and you don’t need to present yourself in any particular way. You are embraced for being who you are, and I will meet you wherever that might be.

You aren’t alone in your grief process. If you are struggling, support can make an invaluable difference in helping you heal. I would be honored to walk on this difficult journey with you.

Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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