Timelines. We all have them. Some we will adopt from our experiences and from the modelling of those closest to us and others will be forged within the culture and society in which we grow.
Timelines, and particularly our expectations that accompany them will impact most aspects of our lives – how long we ‘should’ take to: finish studying, get a job, find a partner, start a family, get married, discover our purpose, finish grieving…
Does grief have a timeline? A finish line?
We are not going to wave grief off as we find the courage, strength and determination to swim from the stormy waters where we first met, nor will we bid grief farewell as we begin to ascend from the dark valley it first greeted us within.
But some societal messaging may suggest otherwise and unknowingly, we may adopt these messages as our own truths. These strong implicit societal and cultural narratives about grief timelines create expectations and therefore pressures surrounding grief, which many of us may subconsciously internalize and make our own. I know I did.
In Your Soul is Wintering I write, ‘Who sets the expectation for an ‘appropriate’ time to grieve for? I cannot be alone in thinking this sounds absurd, right? Where did those expectations even come from? I can assure you with 99.9 percent certainty that they were not internally driven. We are not born with these, it is not programmed in our genetic make up to have emotional timelines and rules around such things. These are learned expectations.’
The idea that grief has a ‘timeline’ is unfortunately compounded by another closely linked misconception about grief being something linear that we move ‘through,’ ‘get over,’ and ‘move on’ from.
These misconceptions or myths about grief timelines create unrealistic expectations that simply serve as nothing more than joy blockers and happiness inhibitors. There are some things so complex we cannot create rules and expectations for them because, coupled with their uniqueness, they are experienced so differently.
Matters of the heart like grief do not operate on timelines.
So if we don’t move ‘through,’ ‘get over,’ or ‘move on’ from grief then what are we to do?
We are to walk in it and then ‘with it.’ We are to eventually take grief’s hand accepting its place in our lives because we have loved and do love.
Perhaps we may even find that giving grief a space by accepting it’s place in our lives, and letting go of the world’s timelines as we learn to walk ‘with it,’ releases the hold it has on our lives, enabling us to heal more resiliently. Perhaps it is learning to do this that gradually calms the grief waters we tread, or lights the way out of the dark valleys we roam.
Grief only exists and has a place in our lives because love did first. No timelines, just love.
And love knows no bounds, not even those between this world and the next.