One of the documents I include in packets I prepare for bereaved individuals with whom I consult is, “A Typical Grief Trajectory,” which provides information regarding things bereaved individuals experience during the first two years following the death of a loved one.
This chart provides basic information regarding the path grief takes. It includes such topics as: ways in which persons experience grief; reactions of friends and society; role changes; changes within the family; the role of support systems; kinds of things (clichés) which are said to bereaved persons; difficult moments such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and Christmas; points at which family and friends back away and resume their own lives; questions regarding one’s sanity and stability; mood swings; assuming responsibility; the point at which one begins to redefine one’s self and set new goals; and the period of recovery. The timeline on this chart shows when various components of the grief experience generally come into play.
Susan Delaney’s novel, A Star to Sail By , provides an excellent description of the second anniversary of the loss of a loved one. This story details the grief Peggy Millwright experiences due to the death of her husband, Peter.
In the first part of the novel Delaney describes Peggy’s despair, depression, and withdrawal due to Peter’s death. She is dysfunctional for two years.
This story takes place during the second anniversary of Peter’s death, and Peggy describes how she feels on this second anniversary (pages 86-87). As she stands at Peter’s grave, she says she feels like saying good-bye for the first time (p. 234). She later says she once again feels like decorating for Christmas (p. 260). She then accepts Peter’s death: “The Christmases Peter and I shared were gone forever” (p. 262). Then, for the first time, Peggy uses the word “recovery,” and states that it is now a reality (p.267). Finally, she describes the anxiety and panic that occurs when one has periodic mental flashbacks (pages 275-276).
In this novel, Susan Delaney describes the evolution of Peggy’s grief and recovery.