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Dorinda Medley knows what it's like to lose a major love in your life. So she feels for her The Real Housewives of New York City friend Bethenny Frankel when she sees people judge her on how long it took her to date following the death of her ex-boyfriend Dennis Shields.
"I don't think there's any rules or guidelines for grief, and I don't think anyone should comment on it. I think everybody does the best they can, and if that means having a friend, dating, whatever it takes to move through it," Dorinda said. (See video above.) "The person has died. You're not doing them any justice or injustice anymore. They're dead. So what you have to do is what's best for yourself."
Dorinda added people are very judgmental about the amount of time you're supposed to mourn, saying, "I was very surprised when I went through it."
New York City-based family grief counselor Jill Cohen explained to Personal Space why she thinks people get judgmental about the amount of time someone spends grieving a partner who has passed.
"Sometimes people feel they have to make a comment or a judgement about anything and everything, because that is part of their nature," she said. "Sometimes, people feel uncomfortable in the presence of one who appears to be saddened and grieving, and they don't know how to interact, so they go ahead and throw a judgment that the other person's behavior and grief time may be wrong. Some people may secretly feel guilty if they have had a partner who had died, and they moved forward more smoothly and quickly than the other person. Guilt. Maybe I did not grieve right? Maybe I didn't let my grief out? Maybe people think I didn't mourn well enough?"
Cohen added when people themselves have never experienced the death of a loved one they can't even begin to contemplate what it feels like, how long it takes, or how to experience grief. "So a hasty judgment seems the only way and the easiest way to think about it and dismiss it. If a person is very close to the person who is grieving and they feel unable to help her or him, they feel helpless themselves, they may feel inclined to judge that the person's grief is too much, too long, too intense, and that they are incapable of being helped and moving forward."
So, is there a respectful amount of time to wait until you move on?
"People think there is an appropriate amount of time for grief, because people like structure and a framework for things. Experiences feel more manageable when there is a timetable or a model," Cohen said.
"Some go with the year timeframe, that it takes a year of firsts to complete the grief cycle. First birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc. and that after a person has experienced and gone through this life-cycle of events, they are then prepared to go through it again and know what to expect each time the occasion rolls around and get used to it. Well, not so, in some cases. Grieving can become harder after the firsts are completed. The 'new normal' is often hard to fathom and lonely and overwhelming. Friends and family return to their normalcy and the griever's life remains forever changed."
No, there is *not* a respectful amount of time for grief.
"There is not a universally specific time period, though various religions and cultures do have rituals which use timetables," Cohen explained.
"While some grievers appear to bounce back quickly, this may not necessarily be a disrespectful way of mourning. You don't always know how the life was for that person before the death occurred and/or what kind of a relationship they had with the deceased. Some think that going back to 'living fully' is just what his or her partner wanted. No show of grief — be it long, short, emotional, stoic, simple, complicated — can ever or should ever really be judged. When the time comes that it's your turn to experience the death of a loved one, wouldn't you want your way of grieving and mourning to be judgment-free from others?"
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