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Question : I lost my brother several months ago. There are days when I still feel overpowered by sadness. Is it normal to grieve this long?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Michael Craig Miller, M.D., is Senior Editor of Mental Health Publishing at Harvard Health Publications. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Miller is in clinical practice at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he has been on staff for more than 25 years.

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March 26, 2014
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I’m sorry to learn of your loss. Everyone grieves differently.

Grief rarely has a clear beginning, middle, and end. There is not one way to move through emotions.

A big loss does not always resolves with “closure.” Grief doesn’t neatly end at six months or one year.

One factor is the strength of the bond you had. If a bond is strong, grief can be lifelong. Parents who lose a child often say they never get over the loss. The loss of a spouse can be as devastating.

The loss of other loved ones, including siblings, can take a long time to get over as well.

But even in those cases, grief usually does soften and change over time. How this goes depends on your emotional style. Your support system is a factor. Your culture also determines how grief goes.

The loss of a sibling has a unique quality. Siblings share an upbringing and history. You share many happy and sad memories. Those memories draw attention to the loss.

You may feel sadness or anger. You may feel abandoned. The range of feelings is huge.

Feelings can be triggered by birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or holidays. A familiar scent. A song you both liked. All of this is entirely normal.

Siblings are part of your generation. That may raise concerns about your own mortality.

The raw, all-consuming shock of early grief usually tails off within weeks or months. Gradually, at their own pace, most people find themselves adjusting. They slip back into their usual routines.

So give yourself time. Many people find that the mourning period is a time for reflection. It can be a time for growth. Many people emerge from the depths of their grief with greater confidence in their ability to manage life’s sorrows and difficulties.

 

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