Stop Putting a Timeline on Grief

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In our fast paced world, we try to convince ourselves that we need to be perfect in handling our grief. We’re supposed to be sad for a couple of days and then rapidly bounce back into our happy, energetic selves. This is beyond wrong. There is no specific timeline for grief. Whether it’s a death, job loss, breakup, or medical problem, no two people will heal in the same amount of time. By putting this unrealistic timeline on ourselves, we stop ourselves from fully feeling the pain that will only help us grow in the end. We rush the healing process, which only prevents us from accepting the pain in a healthy way.  We turn ourselves into happy-go-lucky machines that are more robot than human.

I know people who have accepted the loss of family members rather quickly, while others feel their grief is never-ending. Death is the most complex thing in this world. It is the only thing guaranteed in this life, yet it is also the idea we struggle the most with accepting. To set a timeline on a person who just experienced such a heavy loss is absurd. Deaths of loved ones scar people, and often these scars may not fully heal. Understand that people won’t always feel better after the traditional grieving period.  Similarly, on a lighter note, in the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother”, there’s a scene in which all the characters explain how long it should take to get over a breakup. From Lily’s “Half the length of the relationship” to Robin’s “Exactly 10,000 drinks. However long that takes”, it is clear that no two characters on the show get over breakups at the same rate. Breakups can scar people too. Be there with patience for however long your loved one needs it after a painful breakup.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with the show, “The Bachelor”. I know, I know.  It’s not the most enlightening show of all time, but it really has taught me a few important lessons about relationships. For those who have never seen it, the show consists of one man with 25 girls vying for his heart. He takes them on group dates, one-on-one dates, and hometown dates, sending some girls home each week. Eventually, one girl is left and a proposal is expected. While many people say this show is scripted, it’s very clear that real relationships can come out of this show. Out of the past twelve seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”, exactly half the couples are still together which is pretty impressive for reality television. ANYWAYS, often there are couples on the show that end up getting engaged, seem so happy after the show ends, only to break up a few months later. This is when the grief comes in. People in the fandom expect these newly-single people to bounce back after a few days, go back to making public appearances after a few weeks, and maybe even appear on the next season of the show’s summer spinoff, “Bachelor in Paradise”. This is unrealistic! Most of these engagements are truly founded in love and hope, so why do we expect these people to be over their heartaches in the blink of an eye? The realest moment I’ve ever seen in this show happened on “Bachelor Winter Games”, with former Bachelor Ben Higgins breaking down and leaving because he still had feelings for his ex fiancée, Lauren Bushnell. Both Higgins and Bushnell were two of the most sincere people the show has ever had, but they ended up separating after about a year and a half of being engaged. Lauren now seems extremely happy with her new boyfriend, and that’s seriously so good for her, but from what we can see on television, Ben still isn’t ready to love again. On “Winter Games”, pretty much every person in the house coupled up really quickly, but Higgins realized he wasn’t ready to love again, explaining, “As much as I’ve moved on, and I have, it still hurts even though we’re months past it…It breaks you every day.”

This show is known for its tears and drama, but never like this. While most tears come from fighting over the same guy or not getting a rose, Higgins shows in this episode just how real his love was, and how hard it is to get over something you wanted to work so badly. As someone who came on “Winter Games” to look for love again, he proves how long grief can really take, for he leaves the show upon realizing that even though it’s been months, he’s still hurting. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, this scene is so powerful and a must-watch for anyone feeling pressure to be over an ex after a certain amount of time. I have no doubt Ben will find love again. He’s the most kind-hearted Bachelor this franchise has ever had. For now though, he still seems to be hurting, and that’s okay. Instead of judging Lauren for her happiness (though I’m sure she wasn’t sudden) or Ben for his heartache, we have to remember that we are all human and that grief has no timeline.

Here are some links to Ben’s powerful goodbye:

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/ben-higgins-breaks-internets-heart-tearful-goodbye-bachelor-winter-games-063910419.html

http://www.etonline.com/bachelor-winter-games-sneak-peek-ben-higgins-breaks-down-in-tears-over-lauren-bushnell-breakup

 

On a more personal level, a few weeks ago I had a surprising conversation with a family member. She’s lived in a city her whole life, and she and her husband just moved to the suburbs half a year ago. She told me that she was struggling a little bit with making friends in the area and adapting to a completely different environment. She explained that while she felt better than she did the first few months, she still wasn’t completely used to her new home, even though she loves her house and the area. I reminded her of the same thing I’ve been preaching this whole post: grief has no timeline. While this isn’t your typical form of grief, missing your old home and adapting to your new life is a huge challenge. Some people can thrive in any environment easily, while others need time to get used to this kind of change. Let people take the time they need, whether it’s something tragic and heartbreaking, or something less intense, like a move.

I have to remind myself of this concept every single day. As someone who puts 100% of her heart into everything, grief takes longer for me than it does for most people. It’s easy to compare yourself to others in similar situations and wonder why you can’t be as carefree as they are. It’s easy to hide your grief from the world and put on a fake smile so that people won’t see how vulnerable you are. But it’s so important to remember that we are all on different timelines, and we all have different brain chemistries. You are not weak or  dramatic if you take longer to grieve. You don’t have to be fully over it today, a month from now, a year from now, or ever. With that said, wallowing in your sadness forever isn’t a good idea either. You have to make the effort to find happiness, even if the grief doesn’t fully disappear. Slowly, you will find that the happiness will overpower the grief, but at different rates for different people. I promise, you will be okay again eventually. You will love again. You will go out and have fun again. You will smile again. You will be happy again. Have courage, look for joy, but don’t subject yourself to a grief timeline that’s impossible for 99% of us to follow.

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