There is no timeline for how long grief lasts, but you may start feeling better as you move through the grieving process.

Grief is a natural response to losing a loved one, valued relationship, or career opportunity. Grief can come with a variety of emotions, such as feelings of sadness or loneliness.

Grieving also proves an individual process, so every person may experience grief in different ways. Your feelings may come in phases as you go through different stages of grief.

However, if you’re unable to accept loss or you try to push away your feelings, you may be experiencing complicated grief. Acceptance may allow you to find profound lessons and opportunities, even as you work through your loss.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Be patient with yourself and give yourself the time you need to heal.

There is no set length or duration for grief, and it may come and go in waves.

However, according to 2020 research, people who experience common grief may experience improvements in symptoms after about 6 months, but the symptoms largely resolve in about 1 to 2 years. This can be considered a baseline for what the grieving timeline can look like.

You may wonder if it is possible to grieve for too long?

Santiago Delboy, a psychotherapist practicing in Chicago, says, “who is to say how long is too long?” He says, “you grieve for as long as you need to, even if that takes a lifetime.”

Most people find that as time goes on, they slowly learn to cope better with the loss. It’s also common to feel grief like a roller coaster, where you have ups and downs.

However, if your grieving process feels “stuck,” Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, a psychologist residing in Denver, Colorado, suggests seeking a counselor to help you manage the feelings that are coming up as you grieve.

Progressing through grief can be a slow process, and that’s OK. What’s important is to pay attention to how you feel and avoid losing touch with yourself in a difficult time.

“It’s not clear why some people grieve for longer than others,” says Bobby. “The closeness of the relationship, a traumatic or unexpected loss, the grieving person’s own history, and other life stressors can all play a role in how the grieving process unfolds,” explains Bobby.

Common feelings that accompany grief are:

  • feelings of emptiness
  • inability to feel joy
  • trouble sleeping or eating
  • feelings of anger
  • sadness

“It is important to remember that coping with a loss is a very singular and unique experience to each person. There is no specific timeline or timetable. Everyone grieves differently. There is no answer to how long the grieving process should take that would be true for everyone,” Dr. Holly Schiff says, a clinical psychologist residing in New York City.

Grief comes in stages and changes over time, and you can go back and forth between stages and even feel like you’re in multiple stages at once, says Schiff.

The five stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are:

  1. denial
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance

As you move through the grieving process, you may find that milestones like birthdays or anniversaries may trigger feelings of grief. Other sensations or memories, such as a song on the radio or a familiar smell, may also trigger your symptoms of grief.

Rest assured, your grief will lessen over time. “As time passes, the waves of grief tend to be further apart and less overwhelming,” says Bobby.

“Eventually, you’ll be able to enjoy the good memories of your loved one without feeling crushed by sadness,” explains Bobby.

While there is no set marker for the “right time” to get professional help, Delboy suggests a therapist to help you make sense of your loss. Therapists may also help you understand how a traumatic event affected you, so speaking with them may help you regain a sense of meaning.

You might benefit from professional help if you find yourself:

  • having a hard time making sense of your loss
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • experiencing a traumatic response in addition to grief
  • turning to unhealthy coping strategies to help manage grief
  • experiencing complicated grief

“Do not wait until it feels like a problem,” says Delboy. Consider talking to a therapist who can support you and help you process your grief, says Bobby.

After a traumatic event, some factors may disrupt or prolong the typical process of grieving, which may lead to what is called complicated grief.

“Complicated grief is when the feelings of loss and painful emotions are so long lasting and debilitating that they don’t improve even after time passes, and there is difficulty recovering from the loss and resuming your own life,” says Schiff.

“Complicated grief can happen if you have a complex relationship with the person you’ve lost or have feelings of anger or resentment that are mixed with love,” says Bobby.

“People can also have a hard time when they feel angry or glad that someone they loved died. It tends to make it harder for them to process the loss because they judge their own feelings.”

You may also experience disenfranchised grief, which is when you grieve and others feel like you don’t need to. When you experience disenfranchised grief, you may feel shamed or shut-out from loved ones who disagree with how you deal with loss.

Finding ways to validate and support yourself as you grieve is essential.

There are no rules for grieving or no timeline of how long it should last. However, there are five stages you may go through when you lose a loved one. The feelings of grief you have may lessen around 6 months after your loss.

It’s not exactly clear why some people grieve longer than others. It may depend on whether the loss was traumatic or unexpected, as well as how close you were with the person.

Grief comes in stages and can change over time. As you move through the process, you may find that certain things may trigger your emotions and take you back to grief from time to time.

If you have a hard time making sense of your loss, or you think you may have complicated grief, do not hesitate to get professional help for support. You can even find online resources to help you navigate your loss.

Grieving takes time. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. If you feel you need more support, these resources can help: