Have you ever had a brief bout with illness? Perhaps you recovered so quickly that you have practically forgotten the episode. Well, grief is not like that. “There is no such thing as ‘getting over’ grief,” writes Dr. Alan Wolfelt in his book Healing a Spouse’s Grieving Heart. However, he adds: “Over time and with the support of others, your grief will soften.”
As an example, consider how the patriarch Abraham reacted when his wife died. The Bible says that “Abraham began to mourn and to weep over Sarah.” The expression “began to” suggests that it took some time for him to cope with his loss.* Another example is Jacob, who was deceived into believing that his son Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. He grieved for “many days,” and his family members were unable to comfort him. Several years later, the death of Joseph still weighed heavily on his mind.—Genesis 23:2; 37:34, 35; 42:36; 45:28.
The same is true today of many who mourn the death of someone very close. Consider the following two examples.
“My husband, Robert, died on July 9, 2008. The morning of the fatal accident was no different from any other day. After breakfast, as we always did when he was leaving for work, we gave each other a kiss, a cuddle, and an ‘I love you.’ Six years later the pain in my heart is still there. I don’t think I will ever get over my loss of Rob.”—Gail, aged 60.
“Although I have been without my dear wife for more than 18 years, I still miss her and grieve over my loss. Whenever I see something in nature that is attractive, my thoughts go to her, and I cannot help wondering how she would have enjoyed seeing what I am seeing.”—Etienne, aged 84.
Clearly, such painful and long-lasting feelings are only natural. Each person grieves in his or her own way, and it would be unwise to judge the way another person responds to tragedy. At the same time, we may need to hold off from condemning ourselves if our reaction to loss seems excessive. How can we cope with grief?