Many people have heard that the first year of loss is the worst. I disagree. I think that it is different than the first, but not necessarily the worst. Neither are good for that matter.
For this post, I will be examining the differences between the first and second year of grief from my perspective, so that any and all may try to understand some of the things that a grieving person goes through on a deeper level.
- It is not okay to just assume that the bereaved are okay because they survived the first year.
- That is what the first year is all about, learning to survive.
- The body kicks into fight or flight response and the survivors do just that, survive, because they have no other choice.
- I bring this up because many people look at the bereaved and think they're okay because they seem to be handling their new life well, and they might smile sometimes in public. This is what you see, but may not necessarily be what occurs behind closed doors.
- The bereaved may try to reinvent themselves because everything else in their life just drastically changed, so why not them too.
- It is not just losing a loved one. It is everything that comes with it. Financial stability, a father or mother to the children, a companion and partner, help around the house etc.
- Family dynamics also shift. Holidays and family gatherings are not the same. Family and friend relationships are not the same and some are lost.
- People don't look at you the same. The look of pity is, in my opinion, one of the worst.
- Every monumental date - holidays, birthdays, anniversaries etc. are emotional and painful, and even if you have prepared yourself, you cannot prepare enough for the ache in your soul.
- You learn to see the signs of your loved one still being present in some way in the world. You learn to listen to your gut, and if you haven't start listening! Hang on to it and keep your eyes open. You will need this skill more than you think down the road.
- By now, the bereaved is used to surviving on their own. But, let me make it clear that just because they are used to it, it does not in any way, shape or form make it easier.
- The support from the first year is now mostly gone. People have gone back to their lives, and assume you're okay now, so the help dissipates.
- It becomes increasingly more difficult to see other people be happy and move on with their lives.
- Where there was hope the first year, there is a void in the second.
- The reality that there are many items of the deceased that need to be given away or sold has to be dealt with. This is stressful, and no one wants to do it, or help with it. You're on your own.
- It's like reopening a wound when getting rid of things that you're used to sitting around the house, but at some point logic has to take over. If it's not useful, and the kids, you or family members won't want it, then get rid of it.
- The loneliness takes over at times. You are increasingly aware that you are alone in this world. You watch others find partners and be happy and you sit on the back-burner and wonder "why not me?"
- You realize that you aren't open to a relationship and that answers the prior question.
- Now comes the real struggle of the second year.... how do you once again become open and/or why would you want to?
- You certainly don't have time to date with all of the added duties on your plate, after all, you are now mother and father of the household, you do it all.
- Furthermore, you are pickier than you used to be because of the relationship you had with the deceased and you now have children that you must look out for.
- It becomes increasingly important that you are wise with your decision of who you let into your life, because unlike before you had kids, there is no longer one person to look out for and make sure that the other person meshes with, there are three (in my case).
- Because of all that is above, finding someone seems almost hopeless. By this time in your life most people are settled, and "all the good ones" taken. The old adage of "there are plenty of fish in the sea" is not applicable here. This meme amuses me to no end. It absolutely is not all about looks as this meme implies, but it is still how a widowed woman feels when trying to even comprehend dating again.
- You feel sad and unhappy some of the time, but feel like no one notices or cares anymore because it's just normal. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it's not. Find someone to talk to, whether it be a friend, family member, doctor or counselor. You may have to be pickier about who you talk to about these things these days. There are some that just don't want to hear it anymore. That's okay, find someone who will listen and give good advice and no judgement.
- Remember those signs I talked about earlier? You'll continue to see them. Take comfort in them. Listen to them, because they can be a guiding force and that is one of the biggest things you'll need the second year.
- Guidance. Where do you go from here? How do you decide? You listen to your gut and you follow the signs. External forces can be your greatest asset in determining your future.
- Reach deep down to the core of your soul and figure out what it's telling you in the second year. It may be completely different than you imagined your life would be. It's okay. Your life has changed and you have changed and so your purpose and life goals may have changed as well, in fact, I can almost guarantee they will. Find your purpose.
They say the only way to get through grief is through it. I agree of course. You can't hide from it, you can't run from it, you can't pretend it never happened. It is what it is, and all you can do is move forward, weep, beg and pray that one day it will get better.
I believe it will.