After the first year… then what?

Grief is different for everyone; like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two are alike. The first year of bereavement brings with it variety of reactions, sensations and challenges. As the anniversary of the death approaches, you may have expectations of yourself and how far you have come in your healing. On average, it takes an individual 2-5 years to grieve a loss, so be realistic in your expectations for yourself.


  • Feelings of anger and guilt may still be present; be gentle with yourself, recognize and work on them.
  • Feeling of depression may enter for the first time or re-enter; this is part of the grief process and will get better with assistance.
  • “Time will heal” is a common saying. Time does soften the hurt, but it is what you do with the time that makes the difference. Identify what helps: journaling, exercise, deep breathing, etc.  for releasing emotional energy.
  • From time to time you may still experience from time to time waves of strong emotions that come and go. Allow yourself the time and space to feel the feelings, express them and work on the ones that hinder your wellbeing. Remember that these “grief bursts” are natural parts of this process.


  • Focus on getting sufficient quality sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and ensure that you are physically active. Exercise helps alleviate mood and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • Variety of physical symptoms may appear (e.g. chest pains). Have regular check-ups.
  • Take relaxation pauses throughout the day. Often we do not stop until something happens that makes us stop. Be proactive.
  • Work on maintaining a balance in your life: ensure that the amount of energy coming in that nourishes you is not less than the energy you put out towards addressing your responsibilities.


  • Expect upsurges of memories around anniversaries and significant dates. Expect your grief to be triggered more around these times.
  • Asking “why” is important, yet it is important to acknowledge that you may never know why.


  • Don’t expect too much from your family; they too are grieving.
  • You may hear people suggest that you should be in a different place in your grief by now; you may even feel abandoned by some friends and even family. Talk to someone who understands.
  • The new roles you have taken on and visiting places that remind you of the person who has died may lead you to feel alone; when you are ready, find new friends or reconnect with old ones, find worthwhile projects or work.

What gets in the way of healthy grieving?

Getting stuck in one phase or feeling. Not wanting to appear weak. Believing in the myth that you should be able to just get over it. Societal attitudes. Well meaning others who say unhelpful things. Not letting yourself cry. Not acknowledging certain thoughts or feelings. Not allowing yourself to go through the process. Trying to be tough or strong for others and thereby denying your own needs. Drug and alcohol misuse. Unresolved past grief.