It seems to take two years to get used to a significant loss or change.
You may want it to be much quicker.
This is not a hard and fast rule – it can take longer or be quicker, in some circumstances.
I work with people whose bodies change over time. If I ask how they were a year ago, they generally tell me they are still struggling with those changes. If I ask how they would feel if they were as they were two years ago, they say something like ‘Oh, that would be fine!’ – whatever they were like.
It seems that the changes within the last two years are still being processed; they haven’t yet become normal, expected.
This question can give a measure of your personal ‘grieving time’; how long it takes you to get used to a significant change.
You may have to cope with another change while you are processing the previous one.
People can feel that they are permanently in a grieving process, when in fact they are having a series of discrete, different changes, each of which is taking about two years to be processed.
Within two years of any significant change, you can expect things to be as they were two years ago. This means you can get frustrated and brought up short whenever your body doesn’t behave as it did.
If the loss is a painful one, it hurts a lot in the first two years.
After two years you are more likely to expect things to be as they have become.
After two years, you are a different person, in a new reality. What is normal for you has changed.
Within the two years, your automatic reactions may not always include the change.
Within the two years, you may have to consciously remember the change.
Within two years of one leg stopping working normally, you may have to think before you step into a boat; you may have to consciously remember which leg to use. After two years, your body will automatically use the safer leg. You won’t have to think about it.
This is a process which happens over time. Within the first two years you will be able to forget the change sometimes. You are just more likely to have to remember it – and to feel the emotions that go with it.
The feelings change too. Frustration, anger, blame, fear, anxiety, persecutory guilt are more likely in the beginning. The early fears are often unrealistically frightening. The only way to deal with them may seem to be to deny that anything has changed.
This state can then alternate with an acute awareness of the most painful aspects of the change.
In the early days after the change, when you forget it, your body probably won’t remember either; so it seems you are denying the change. Later, your brain really knows the change is there, so you behave in the knowledge of the change, even if you don’t consciously think about it.
Sadness, sorrow, grief, apologetic guilt are all more likely later on.
Any feeling can come and go. Contradictory feelings can struggle with each other, and both be true.
Practical solution-seeking can take place early on – or only after you have admitted that a change is here to stay.
Later on, the pain of the loss seems to get overlaid with new experiences. It may still return, just as painfully, later, but it can spend longer being buried, or it can feel more like an ache than a sharp knife in the heart or the guts. Aspects of life in the new normality can be enjoyed again – if you are the kind of person who can enjoy life at all.
However long you think it should take, it takes different lengths of time for different people, and you may be different from other people around you.