Ask Denise: Grief recovery taking longer than expected

Editor’s note: Writer’s answers do not reflect those of the Mitchell News-Journal and are not meant to replace medical or mental health care.


Dear Denise: What is the normal length of time it takes to recover from grief? I lost my wife in a tragic accident a few months back, and I can’t seem to move ahead. I go to counseling, I work out, I have tried to reconnect with family and friends. I will have a day or two where everything seems almost normal, and then I am back to square one. I tried antidepressants and they just made me numb, so I stopped. I don’t even feel like getting out of bed sometimes. My counselor tells me this is just part of the healing process, but I just find this awful. What can I do to get “me” back?

Dear Reader: First, I want to say I am so sorry for your loss. Secondly, I want to assure you there is no such thing as a “normal” length of time for healing. Everyone is different, and everyone heals at their own rate. A great theorist from the mid-1990s, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, made it her life’s work to study the grief process and how it affects us. She identified five distinct stages we go through before we reach healing. Healing, however, is not often a straight, linear progression; we generally take a few steps forward, then a couple back and then forward, etc. That can add to the frustration and impatience we feel. We put a demand on ourselves that we “should be over it by now”.

As human beings, we go to great lengths to avoid pain of any kind, both physical and emotional (hence the market for a pill for every conceivable ailment). But unfortunately, with emotional pain and loss, we must be able to process that pain to heal from it. So, I praise you for recognizing that numbing yourself with antidepressants is not the answer. There are low levels of medications your doctor may prescribe that still allow you to feel the full range of emotions, but will bring some level of stabilization. Please be patient with yourself, and allow yourself the time and nurturing needed to get you through this very devastating time.

Just nurture yourself, my friend, be patient and find peace in the knowledge that while we never fully get over a loss of a loved one, the day will come when you will be able to think of her and smile at the good memories.

Hugs to you.


Denise Harrison is a Licensed Counselor in Spruce Pine. Send questions to or call and leave a message at 828-467-0037. All submissions are anonymous.

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