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Grief Can Last for 6 Months Max – According to a Third of Brits

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Grief is a universal experience that everyone encounters at some point in their life.

In the UK, the top five ways in which Britons experience grief are the death of a loved one, the death of a pet, breaking up with a partner, the end of a friendship, and loss of identity.

The death of a loved one is the most common cause of grief experienced by Britons, with 62% of individuals identifying it as a significant cause. Losing a pet, which is often regarded as a member of the family, can also trigger strong feelings of grief, with 35% of individuals acknowledging it as a source of their distress. Breakups and the end of friendships can also be significant causes of grief, affecting 29% and 18% of Britons respectively. Finally, 14% of individuals experience grief as a result of losing their sense of identity, which can be caused by a range of factors, such as retirement or a change in career.

Adults in Britain believe that the grieving process should last no longer than six months (30%), with the national average sitting at 18 months max.

The new study, following the launch of therapist matching website, TherapyFinders, found that 62% of Britons have experienced the death of a loved one, and more than a third (35%) have grieved through the loss of a pet. Almost a third (29%) have experienced loss through a romantic relationship ending, 18% through the end of a friendship, and 14% have grieved the loss of their identity.

For almost half, the research showed that people mainly suffered from feeling lost (43%) during grief, as well as depressed (38%) and lonely (38%). Despite these emotions, a fifth (19%) said they believe it is possible to completely ‘get over’ grief.

Claire Williams, the founder of the client-to-therapist matching website, TherapyFinders, and specialist grief counsellor, said: “Every single person in the world will experience grief in some form during their lifetime and it is one of the most personal events that we go through. It is also a moment in life that can feel confusing and for some, the emotion we expect to have is not the one we feel, and that’s OK.

“I don’t believe there is a time frame for processing grief – it’s an individual experience impacted by so many aspects of our life, that there is no one-size-fits-all. This idea that grief should last a certain amount of time can often be destructive within family and friendship groups; people stop feeling empathy and start to think “they should be over this by now” often resulting in the grieving person feeling even more isolated and with no one to talk to. 

“Grief can be a powerful and sometimes overwhelming emotion that when internalised can lead to other conditions such as depression. We commonly associate grief with death, but this isn’t always the reason for this emotion, we can experience grief through the loss of a job, a friendship or our identity and the feeling is no less important.”

Despite the fact that we all will experience grief at some point in our lives, TherapyFinders research found that over a third (36%) of adults wouldn’t even consider speaking to a professional about their grief – over half (55%) of those aged 61 agreed with this.

Meanwhile, a third (32%) of those aged 31–40 said it is possible to completely “get over” grief, compared to just 12% of people aged 41–50. Men were also almost three times more likely to agree with this than women (28% vs 11%). When questioned on the timespan of grief, 42% of men said that the period should last for no longer than six months, contrasting dramatically to the 19% of females who agreed with this.

Claire Williams shares her tips on how to process grief:

  1. Talk. If you can, talk to someone about how you are feeling. Try a close and trusted friend or family member or reach out to a professional talking therapist, who will offer you a safe space to process whatever it is you are experiencing.
  2. Journal. Journaling can be a helpful way of understanding what you are feeling if you don’t what to write start by just writing down whatever is in your head. It doesn’t have to make any sense, but this can be revealing and can also help you to see where you are in your grief journey.
  3. Communicate. If you have experienced a loss and have been unable to say everything you wanted to someone, it may help to write it down. You can even imagine that person is in front of you and say the words out loud as if speaking to them. This can offer people the closure they need to begin the grieving process. This can be a very effective technique for processing things that have been left unsaid or emotions that were kept hidden. If you want to try this, I recommend doing it with a trained therapist as they will be able to support you and guide you properly through what is called “two-chair work” or “empty chair technique”.
  4. Remember. Try recalling happy memories, there is no shame in remembering someone with happiness and even laughter.
  5. Reflect. If you are experiencing grief through the loss of a job or your identity, try reflecting on all of your positive attributes and the things that you do well. When we lose a job that we loved or feel unseen as the person we used to be, it can sometimes lead to feelings of inadequacy and not being good enough. Positive affirmations can help boost your confidence and help you to make decisions or necessary changes in order to work through your grief.
  6. Release. Don’t be afraid to cry – or scream if you want to. Acknowledge that you are grieving, and allow yourself time and space to grieve. Crying and/or screaming releases the emotion and gets it out of your body.  It also reminds you that you are a human being with a range of emotions and that is OK. I personally found screaming at the sea very cathartic and felt instantly lighter. If you don’t live near the sea, try screaming into a pillow or let your tears wash over you like a comfort blanket. The release is powerful.

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