How to Grieve (And Accept) the Passage of Time

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Mourning the passage of time is a normal part of loss when we notice the world around us changing in ways we’d never before witnessed. Admitting and accepting that our place in the universe begins to shift the older we get can profoundly affect how we feel about ourselves and life. 

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We begin to take stock of everything we’ve gone through in life, recollecting the good and the bad and grieving for the things we lost along the way or never had. The hopes and dreams we might have entertained in our younger years now seem impossible because of the lack of time to move forward because of age. 

Recognizing missed opportunities and the passage of time create overpowering feelings of despair in many individuals struggling with lost time-related grief. 

Is It Normal to Grieve the Passage of Time?

The human grief experience is different for every person suffering tragedy and loss. The passage of time is another way that some individuals encounter grief. It’s normal to feel intense pain and sadness that time’s passing by so quickly with nothing they can do to stop time or slow it down.

How individuals deal with their suffering is a highly individual process that hardly ever looks the same for any two people. Whichever way a person confronts their sorrow, there’s no wrong way to grieve. 

Why Do We Grieve the Passage of Time?

Grief is the normal and natural response to any loss that profoundly affects someone. When individuals realize that time is moving much quicker than they’d like, these feelings can create confusion, stress, and anxiety. How we grieve for lost time depends on each person’s perception of loss. The following are ways we suffer the passage of time and how it may look from differing points of view. 

  • We see ourselves and our loved ones aging. With advanced age comes death, which is a difficult concept to accept. 
  • We recognize the passage of time as a marker for lost youth and vitality. We might begin to notice how young other people look compared to ourselves.
  • We have a fear of aging. We don’t want to accept that our looks are fading and our health may be declining.
  • Our memory starts to fade, and our cognition declines. We begin to forget names and faces and have trouble understanding directions.

These seemingly insignificant things begin to stack up, causing a ripple effect on our grief. 

Stages of Grieving the Passage of Time

The stages of grief affect many different types of loss, including grieving over lost time. How a person reacts to grief differs from one person to another. Grief isn’t a linear process and tends to get messy now and then by appearing and reappearing when a bereaved person starts feeling better. You can expect each stage of grief to bring its unique set of experiences and lessons as you learn to deal with time passing by. 

Denial

Not wanting to accept your loss is a crucial indicator of denial. Denial can present as shock and disbelief in people who aren’t ready to face the reality of their loss. A perfect example of someone who refuses to believe that time is moving forward without them is someone who continually lives in the past. When you focus on how things used to be, it makes it hard to accept things as they currently are and even more challenging to imagine what the future can bring. 

Anger

Grief often surfaces as anger in the grieving process when an individual can’t accept their loss or how things happened leading up to the loss. For many reasons, feelings of resentment, rage, or outrage can also manifest in the anger stage of grief.

When considering how a person might feel angry at the passage of time, look to the underlying causes of their distress. Are they mad because they think they missed out on life and that the world’s unfair? Did they suffer significant trauma to make them feel angry at their person, thing, or event that caused them harm? Getting mad at the world or the person responsible for their loss is a normal part of the grieving process. 

Bargaining

Bargaining with time can look a lot like begging and pleading for second chances or the opportunity to relive moments in time before tragedy changed everything. Making deals with the universe can also mean pledging to do, eat, and be better if only the grieving person can have their health back, look younger, or have their babies back home like before they grew up.

The bargaining stage likens to wishful thinking, in which a person knows that no matter how hard they beg to have things the way they used to be, there’s no logical way for that to happen. 

Depression

Feeling down about how time has gone by so quickly is different from feeling depressed over how fast the years pass. There are countless reasons bereaved individuals can fall into grief-related depression, including feeling as if time’s up for doing the things they set out to do before life took a turn for the worse.

Depression is the chronic state of sadness that doesn’t lift itself. Individuals battling depression tend to feel isolated and withdrawn and might be irritable and have trouble focusing.

Acceptance

The final stage of grieving the passage of time is accepting the way things are without looking for ways to get back what was lost or living in the past. Individuals who learn to take life as it comes tend to lead more joyful lives than those who sit in their grief without making an effort to learn to live with change and loss.

Accepting your loss at this stage isn’t an indicator that grieving is now over. However, this does signal the ability to move forward in life healthily.

Tips for Accepting or Grieving the Passage of Time

Learning to accept time passing by takes practice, and you’ll need to incorporate self-acceptance and understanding in how you approach how your life has and will change.

While some things improve with time, like confidence levels and interactions, others can feel like a profoundly devastating loss. Grieving for lost time is normal, and there are ways you can learn to accept this inevitable part of life so that you experience less stress and uncertainty in the future.

Acknowledge your feelings

Know that your feelings and emotions are valid every time you feel down about time passing by much too quickly. It would help if you took the time to consider your feelings and process your thoughts so that you recognize your triggers. Facing your fears is another way of validating your feelings.

Take the time to figure out what you’re most afraid of so that you can work on shifting your perspective. The more you get to know yourself, the easier you adjust to change as you get older.

Focus on your blessings

Losing sight of all the good things in life is easy to do when you feel sad and depressed about time moving on. Getting older doesn’t signal the end of living, and the world is full of opportunities at any stage of life. When grief gets the better of you, take stock of everything in your life that makes it complete.

Those things can look different for everyone. Start by listing the people you know that fill your life with joy, and keep adding to the list everything you consider a blessing. Keep that list handy to pull it out whenever you feel anxious about the future. 

Stop living in the past

It's easy to trip up when you keep looking back as you move forward. Focus on what's in front of you without worrying too much about what once was. Everything changes with time, and it's unfair of you to keep yourself in the past, fretting over how things used to be back then.

You can help yourself accept the passage of time by letting go of the images that used to shape your old self. Right now, not only do you look different, but you sound and act differently as well. What changes do you see coming in the next five to ten years? What actions can you take to ensure the best possible outcome for yourself?

Do something different

Break some of your old habits and routines and get out there and enjoy your life now. When you continuously do the things you used to, the changes within you become more apparent, especially when you find that you can no longer keep up with old routines.

Instead of contemplating your past accomplishments or capabilities, find something you can do that brings you joy presently. Now is an excellent time to explore new hobbies and try new things as you age. 

Embrace the new you 

When you welcome changes without resistance, you feel better about the outcome. You may not be the same person you were a decade ago, but stop and consider if you really would want to be that. As time passes, we experience new things, travel to different places, and meet new people. Who we used to be also changes along the way.

Our thought process matures, and unique personalities emerge. These changes aren’t necessarily bad things taking shape. It’s never too late to move forward in a more positive direction as the years pass. Each year that goes by molds you into something different than what you used to be.

Learn new coping strategies 

Learn to cope with change in the best way possible. Change and coping strategies can look different depending on their backgrounds and experiences. When you feel you’ve exhausted all of your grief healing resources, find new ways of coping with time going by too quickly.

For some people, this might look like moving to a new city, getting a facelift, or dramatically changing their nutrition intake and body composition. Find ways that work for you that feed calmness rather than your fears and anxieties of running out of time. 

When Time Goes By Too Fast 

Finding peace within yourself and the quick passage of time requires you to change your mindset about many things you once thought were true. Learn to embrace your life as it stands right now without looking back to how things used to be or how you imagine they could be sometime in the future.

You are the only one in control of how time passes for you. You can shape your thoughts and experiences into a new reality by focusing on the things that matter most to you in the present.

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