When Does the Grieving Stop?

Q: I lost my wife of more than 26 years nearly 8 years ago. I still hurt whenever I hear those special songs we listened to, or look at photos of her, me and our children on those special days we celebrated throughout her life. In March 2003 we found out she had breast cancer, and from that time on she went through all the treatments to rid her body of the cancer only to find out on Sept 27, 2004 that she had a week to live, a month at most. She died at home 5 days later (Oct 2004). I'm a disabled Naval Veteran. How long does it take to heal from this kind of loss and move forward with my life? -- Steven, 58

Dr. Susan: Your loss is indeed heartbreaking. I expect there will always be certain reminders that will cause you pain. But the fact that you can't forget is not a reason to hide from life. Each person grieves in his or her own way and at his or her own pace. It seems that a lot of people are able to begin to connect intimately with another person after a couple of years. Some much sooner. But, sadly, some are never able to. Have you thought about whether your dear wife would have wanted you to remain sidelined for the rest of your life? You've honored her already by holding her in your heart this long. But now that you are asking "how long does it take," that probably means you are ready to take some steps forward. There are bereavement groups (never too late to join one). And try seeing a therapist. It may be that you are experiencing a form of depression that can be helped with talk and/or a period of medication.

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