Grieving Lost Time Is Totally Normal—Here’s How to Find Healing

Rather, time grief tends to be cyclical, she says. Sometimes, the pain recedes and you can enjoy your life. Other times, a reminder of the loss hits you like a tsunami of despair, guilt, and regret. Waves of grief can and do become less intense, but—because grief is a deeply human experience that’s ultimately a reflection of what you love and value—it never really goes away either, Dr. Cormier says. Instead, you learn to move forward with it. 

How to make the process of grieving lost time less painful

Grieving time isn’t an easy process and it can’t be hurried or forced. (And if it’s preventing you from functioning in your daily life, it might be time to talk to a licensed therapist.) But there are a few expert-approved strategies that might help you feel a little bit better as you work through the loss.  

1. Really (truly) acknowledge and feel your grief. 

As a society, we’re generally not great at honoring grief of any kind. The typical bereavement leave in the US is only three days. There’s also often an instinct to try to “fix” how you’re feeling with problem-solving. (See: the well-meaning friend who offers to set up a dating app profile for you right now when what you need is to first reflect on time lost to a terrible relationship.) Despite good intentions, responses like this—from loved ones or yourself—typically aren’t helpful because they encourage you to push down uncomfortable feelings, which only delays the healing process, Dr. Cormier says.   

Immediately shifting into solutions mode might work in the short-term by distracting you or giving you a false sense of control over your situation. But, like a physical wound, that pain doesn’t go away and is likely to start panging with greater intensity if you ignore it, Dr. Cormier says. 

The reverse is true too, though: Psychologists have found that painful feelings may begin to die down when you express them. That’s why step one is to acknowledge and reflect on your grief, Mekel Harris, PhD, a Memphis-based licensed psychologist, tells SELF. You might ask yourself: What have I lost? How has it affected me? What have the consequences been? How has this hurt me? This type of self-reflection can help you let out some anger or sadness you’re holding inside and begin to accept your situation, Dr. Harris says. You might journal about your feelings (or try a journaling alternative like recording voice notes), confide in a trusted friend, or talk things out with a therapist.   

You can also try meditating or moving your body—gently stretching, dancing, running, going for a walk outside—to release pent-up emotions and tension. Whatever activity you choose, try to be intentional and schedule a specific block of time to address your grief, even if it’s only five minutes once per week to start (you’re more likely to do it if it’s on your calendar, Dr. Harris says).

“The acknowledgement of our pain, the acceptance that grief will be a companion for us over time, and the ability to sit in that discomfort are very important to start with,” Dr. Harris says. In order to work through and learn from your grief, you first have to gradually stop avoiding it and open yourself up to it, she says. 

2. Find balance between solitude and community. 

“Many people in deep grief say, ‘I just want to go under the covers and hide,’” Dr. Cormier says. “That’s a common thing. And yet, if we hide too much, we won’t get the help we need from other people.” While alone time and self-care are important, and you might not feel like reaching out to loved ones every time you’re feeling low, you also need other people to heal—whether that means leaning on your support system, forging new connections, or both. 

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