If only there was a simple answer to that question, so many of us would go through a lot less worry and angst.
There is no right or wrong time to grieve, just as there is also no right or wrong way to grieve. Every person is different, every circumstance is different and as with anything in life, you should never compare your journey with another person.
Remember that your view of someone else’s life is just the postcard version; you only see glimpses and you have no idea what is going on in their heads and hearts and behind closed doors. Speaking from experience, it is easy to give the outward impression that you are coping and that all is, if not perfect, at least well on the way, but often while you are being praised at having adjusted so well, inside you feel like you will never be able to move forward and be ‘normal’ again.
The most important gift you can give yourself is time. There are many ‘authorities’ and well-meaning friends and family who will say that you should be moving forward within 6 months, a year or even as long as three or four years, but there are no hard and fast rules. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality, your life experience, your faith and the nature of the loss. Some people start to move forward in weeks or months but for others, it can take years; either way or anything in between is normal.
The question ‘when it is too long?’ is often asked. If your grief is affecting your life in a negative manner, perhaps it is time to look at other options such as counseling. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be sad, or continue to grieve, or have moments of sadness on anniversaries, significant days or even for no apparent reason, but if it is becoming debilitating and stopping you from living a well-rounded and satisfying life, then perhaps it is time to question how well you are coping.
Sometimes it is a matter of small steps - perhaps you have an occasion you know will be difficult; ask someone you trust to go with you which will help give you a different focus for some of the time, talk to your friends and family if this is possible or chose one person you trust to confide in. One of the most difficult things to do is ask for help, we don’t like to be seen as failing whether it is true or not. People do care, but often don’t like to call in case they are intruding; reaching out to them can be a huge step in the grieving process.
Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to unfold naturally.