I’ve always taken the view that bereavement has no timescale attached to it. The day will come when the pain alleviates, but it won’t disappear for good. Grief is for life. And we learn to live with it. I believe that we grieve for as long as we need to, even when the rest of the world believes we should be “getting over it”. Whatever “over it” means.
However, new research from a charity that offers end-of-life care is challenging my views. A survey of 2053 people by the Sue Ryder charity, which offers support and advice on death, dying and bereavement, has calculated the amount of time it takes to feel better after a bereavement: two years, one month and four days. Crucially, the research found that people who had someone to talk to about their grief would recover far more quickly than people who couldn’t open up about it. People with no support grieved, on average, for nearly three years (an extra eight months, three weeks and five days compared with people who could speak about their feelings).
Significant stats from the Sue Ryder survey include:
- A third said bereavement had a negative effect on their wellbeing, with some considering suicide.
- A quarter suffered in silence, bottling up emotions that would then explode at a later date.
- People aged 45-54 took twice as long to feel better than 16-24-year-olds.
- Women take longer than men to feel better: two years and four months compared with one year and nine months.
- One in four men said they couldn’t talk about bereavement with anyone, compared with one in seven women.
- One in 10 people were too embarrassed to admit they were scared or upset.
The Sue Ryder charity is offering an online forum for support following a bereavement, as it may be easier to open up anonymously if embarrassment kicks in at not being able to “cope”.
My view is that one’s bereavement is one’s bereavement. The length of time it takes to grieve depends on the circumstances of the death, the attachment you had to the person who’s died, and how you feel about yourself at the time. Reaching out for help can be a lifeline. But only you can know when the time is right for you.