It’s Okay To Not “Get Over” Your Grief

Thoughts from a widow of four years

Heather McLeod
5 min readAug 11, 2021
(Photo by Li Yang on Unsplash.)

In the three years my husband lived with cancer, and in the 46 months since he died, I’ve been curious about grief. What does “normal” grieving look like? How do different cultures and communities respond to grief? How can I explain grief to someone who hasn’t yet experienced loss, and is there someone out there able to explain my grief to me?

And then there’s the question so many of us ask: How do I survive this loss? Or, more crudely, how do I “get over” this?

Lois Tonkin’s “growing around grief” model

The explanation I’ve found that best reflects my own experience as a widow is attributed to Lois Tonkin, a grief counsellor in New Zealand. In 1996, she wrote an article about “growing around grief.” She credited this new way of perceiving grief to a mother whose child had died.

“You need to move on.”

The classic, cliche approach to grief assumes that the pain we feel will fade away, and perhaps disappear. In Figure 1, the grief is fresh and all-consuming: Figure 2 implies that grief diminishes over a period of time.

For some of us, this view of the grief process leads to well-meaning friends and family downplaying our…