How Long Does Grief Actually Last?

Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey_Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey

Each of us experiences emotions in our own unique way. Grief is no different. It’s a particularly strong and enduring emotion. Thus, it’s usually safe to assume we’ll feel it more intensely and for a longer time period than most other emotions. But trying to lay out a timetable is not advised. We’re often told that grief arrives in stages (see below). However, those stages are neither linear nor predictable. 

All of this information may sound vague but it’s actually quite helpful with the process. It is essential that, while mourning, you accept the severity and fluctuation of grief. 

Factors That May Impact How Long You Grieve

  • Your Personality and Coping Skills: Some folks handle adversity differently than others. This could be related to their specific temperament. Just as often, it could be a sign that they have developed effective coping skills.
  • Your Support System (or Lack Thereof): Having trusted people around you can ease some of the pain. As a result, this can influence how you feel and for how long.
  • Who Died: Obviously, when a loved one dies, your grief can be shaped by your relationship with them. How close you were to the deceased very much plays a role.
  • Life Situation: If you have to rapidly return to responsibilities and obligations, you may not have time to process the loss

The Stages of Grief

The following list can be helpful as long as you do not view it as a timetable. Rather, keep in mind that it is normal to experience any or all of these stages, regardless of order or intensity.

  • Denial: A temporary sense of shock, numbness, or disbelief
  • Anger: Blaming everyone from doctors, to caretakers, to the person who died for allowing this to happen
  • Bargaining: Focusing on what you could’ve done differently and trying to bargain your way to it never happening again
  • Depression: Typically in the form of feeling sad, lonely, overwhelmed, and withdrawn
  • Acceptance: Recognizing that the loss can’t be reversed and thus, trying to move on.

    Other Symptoms of Grief

    Any of these can coincide with the stages above but they do deserve more than a casual mention. 

    Fear and Anxiety

    Death has a way of reminding us of how fragile we are. Losing someone you love can trigger thoughts about your own mortality. It can also cause health anxiety — wondering if you’re safe and well. Suddenly, your future plans seem less concrete and certain. It takes far less than usual to make you feel anxious, startled, or worried. 


    This may coincide with the bargaining mentioned above. You replay the events leading up to the loss and judge yourself harshly. Did I do enough? Did I say what I wanted to say? Could I have done better? Such rumination does nothing to ease the pain you’re already feeling. But it frequently feels beyond your control. 

    Physical Signs 

    Once again, this will vary from person to person but the most common physical symptoms of grief are:

    • Digestive disturbances 
    • Weight gain or loss
    • Compromised immune system 
    • Sleep problems
    • Unexplained aches, pains, and tension
    • Fatigue and exhaustion 
    • Inability to concentrate and focus

Do Not Grieve Alone

The duration of grief is impossible to predict. Still, you can take steps to ease the intensity. One such step involves working with a therapist. Your weekly sessions are the ideal venue for exploring your response to the loss. Old patterns can be identified. New approaches can be tried out. 

Working together with your counselor, you can give voice to what you feel and need. Grief is not a solo act. If you’re in pain, grief counseling can be your road to acceptance and healing. Let’s connect soon.

Creative Arts Therapy Source offers in-person therapy on Long Island. Online therapy is available across New York & New Jersey.