Harvard Mental Health Letter

Ask the doctor: How long does grief last?

Q. I lost my brother several months ago, and there are days when I still feel overpowered by sadness. Is it normal to grieve this long?

A. I'm sorry to learn of your loss. The brief answer to your question is that everyone grieves differently. Rarely does grief have a clear beginning, middle, and end, like hiking up a mountain and back down along a defined trail. And popular culture promotes the misconception that there is an orderly progression of emotions that will lead to "closure." This is also probably wrong for most people.

The truth is that grief doesn't neatly conclude at the six-month or one-year mark. Depending on the strength of the bond that was broken, grief can be lifelong. Parents whose children die often say they never get over the loss. The loss of a spouse is also devastating. But the loss of other loved ones, including a sibling, can take a long time to get over as well.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »