The Reemergence of Grief
When grief returns years later it can be jarring but it also serves as a reminder of how much we cared for our loved ones.
I recently began working with someone because they were struggling with grief they thought they had "moved past". They had literally been climbing a mountain when they found themselves overcome with such intense grief that it stopped them in their tracks. As they hiked they had let their mind wonder and in doing so, had come face to face with the grief they thought they had put behind them.
“Then my logical brain kicked in and I was reminded that it wasn't possible, as they had been dead for 6 years. In that instant, I felt such immense grief that I had to leave and find a bathroom stall to cry in.”
They reached out because friends and family were worried that they hadn't truly processed the grief and they themselves, were worried they had done something "wrong" during the grieving process.
There seems to be this misconception in our society that we grieve for a certain amount of time and then we're done... that we can pack our grief up in our baggage and put it away. That is not how grief works. Grief never really goes away. It can make appearances even years after we think we're done with it.
When a loved one dies, we can be faced with grief over that loss again and again, sometimes even years later. Some of these feelings of grief we can anticipate, such as the anniversary of our loved one's death, their birthday, a special anniversary and so on. However, sometimes these feelings can seem to come out of the blue, like when we're climbing a mountain, laughing with friends, or even spending a quite evening at home.
I remember this one time I was at some foreign airport waiting at a gate and completely lost in my preflight rituals when I heard this laugh rumble through the crowd that completely knocked me off my feet. The laugh was so similar to my loved one's that I found myself instantly searching the crowd for them. Then my logical brain kicked in and I was reminded that it wasn't possible, as they had been dead for 6 years. In that instant, I felt such immense grief that I had to leave and find a bathroom stall to cry in.
It's important to remember that this is a normal part of the grieving process and there is nothing wrong with you. It's not uncommon to have reemergences of grief last for a minute, an hour, a day, or even a month. Remind yourself that there is no time limit for grief and these feelings too will lessen with time. This too shall pass.
When we experience such moments of grief it doesn't mean we've had a setback in the grieving process. Instead, these reappearances of grief serve as a reminder of how important our loved ones were to us and how much they were loved.