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Dear Annie: Will I always endure grief pangs from the blue?

A bereaved man lost in thought gazes out of a window

Dear Annie: Three years ago, someone I loved very much died. I often think about them but sometimes, something will trigger a memory that shocks me into realising all over again that I’ll never see them again.

Is this grief? Or do I just have to accept that there will always be these moments? – LH

Annie says: I’m wondering if your question – whether or not what you’re experiencing is grief – means that a part of you is waiting for your grieving to end? Without diminishing what you’re going through, it is nevertheless very normal.

Accepting that someone we love is gone forever is possibly the greatest adjustment we ever have to make in life. And it is too big to do all in one go. So it happens in bits and pieces, every now and then. If it didn’t, I think we’d probably go mad.

Though it may not feel like it, each time you have a wave of realisation, which I know comes with an enormous amount of pain, you are actually moving one step closer towards acceptance.

But this does take a long time and I don’t think anyone could say how long exactly. It is such a unique process, aligned to each individual’s circumstances and their own experience of loss.

Though these moments are hard to bear, many people, in time, come to appreciate them, and indeed crave them, as they bring a deeper connection with their loved one. It is in these moments of pain from knowing that they are gone, that we remember more acutely what it was like when they were alive. In this way it is truly bittersweet.

So simply put, yes, these moments will always happen. But your experience of them will change. They will start to happen less frequently, and sometimes less intensely. But most importantly, know that accepting that this is your reality isn’t an easy task. It is one of life’s greatest challenges.

So be kind to yourself, and be patient. There is no right or wrong way down this path. Just your way.

If you have a question for Annie to answer in this column, you can write to her at DearAnnie@funeralguide.com

About Annie

Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.

She is the author of bestselling self-help book Speaking of Death (What the Bereaved Really Need), inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.

  • Regretfully, Annie cannot enter into personal correspondence
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