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Dear friends,

When we experience a disappointment or loss, it takes a little time to absorb the pain and bounce back.  How much time?  It’s different for each of us (and indeed, for each situation), but others are going to share their opinion about it.

Suffered a relationship loss?  Some friends may push you to date again, telling you that “You’ve gotta get back out there!”  But if you “get back out there” too soon for their liking, they’ll tell you that you need more time to grieve, to extract the lessons from your breakup.  “Did you hear she got remarried?”  they’ll say.  “Too soon!”

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The same kind of thing happens when you experience the loss of a loved one (human or furry).  Those who love you will share their opinions on the correct amount of time to grieve.  Is it a month?  A year?  What if you never stop grieving?

Dear friends, there is no right or wrong amount of time to process a loss.  It takes the time it takes, for each of us.

Years ago I went through a painful breakup that had all of my friends telling me to “Get back out there.”  But it was abrupt, and I was blindsided by betrayal.  Everything I believed (about him, about myself) was called into question, and it took years to make sense of it all.  In the early days, each time I tried to date again, I knew I wasn’t ready.  The wounds were too fresh.

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When my 96-year-old grandmother died, it wasn’t a shock.  She was very elderly, and had been ill.  I knew it was coming, so in a sense, I’d already done some of my grieving.  I still miss her, but the loss didn’t feel like a body blow.  I think this also applies if a relationship has been deteriorating over a long period of time.  Perhaps your friend has already done some of the grieving.

A few years back, my beloved kitty Abby died of cancer.  If you’ve ever had a strong bond with an animal, you know how devastating it can be to lose a furry friend.  She passed away on a Monday, and the following weekend I adopted Winnie.  “Too soon!” some people said.  “You need more time to grieve!”  But what I needed was a kitty to love.  The grief was there anyway (and I still miss her).

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I’ve spent some time pondering this idea of “the right amount of time to grieve.”  Society used to prescribe a mourning period (during which people wore black, avoided social events, etc.) but for the most part, we no longer have such guidelines.  We muddle through.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when other people remark on our mourning time, what they’re really saying is “I’m uncomfortable with how you are processing this loss.”  It’s not easy to watch someone else suffer, especially someone we love. We want them to snap out of it, to return to “normal.”  The outward display of suffering makes us uneasy.  We want to help, and sometimes, there’s nothing we can do.  This makes us feel helpless.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing *I* can do is to say, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.  I care about you.  I want to help.”  Some people might ask you to pray for them, or ask you to help in tangible ways like running errands.  Others might say “There’s nothing you can do.”  And maybe there isn’t.

But don’t stop letting them know you care.  And be patient.

(Please note that I’m not talking about situations where you fear someone might hurt themselves … those require intervention).