When Tom first died, I read that year 2 was harder. I thought to myself, no way it could be harder than it is right now. I am here to say that I was wrong-ish. Is it harder then when he first died? I say it’s different but the feelings are still strong. which makes year 2 of grieving still sucks diddily ucks! [Simpsons reference and one that my Tom just laughed at] Grief is such a hard thing and let me just say right now, I don’t recommend, absolute -100 out of 100! Here is the thing, we can’t get out of it. No one leaves this place alive. We all die at some point. So why is this so hard-because as a society death and dying are something we don’t talk about and the journey for the survivors, forget about it!
When Tom was sick, I did so much grieving. Grieving for him because he was diagnosed with ALS. Grieving for us as a family because we were losing the head of our family. Grieving for Trey because he had an amazing Dad that he only would get limited memories with and grieving as a couple that our forever love was his and not mine. Lot’s more but you get the idea. Then he died and the anticipatory grieving ended and a new grief began. When he was here and I would grieve a particular loss, I could go to him and hold his hand, lay my head next to his or give him a hug and kiss for my comfort as much as his. You would think that with all the grieving you do during a terminal disease, you would be grieved out. Nope, at least not in my case and I suspect not for many people that are survivors of a terminal journey. Now when the sadness comes, I cannot physically touch Tom for comfort.
Looking back, the first year of grieving was filled with shock, yes shock. Even for those of us that knew it was inevitable, it was still a shock he was gone. That shock contributes to a numbness as you move through the days, weeks and months that follow in the first year. There are the administrative tasks you must tend to after your loved one passes. There were days spent in bed crying allowing myself to feel the pain and grief. I held tight to the idea that I just needed to get through the year of firsts. Somewhere I imagined that if I could get through that first year, I would be okay. The shit you tell yourself to get through right? Who hasn’t heard people say, “don’t make any major decisions during the first year of loss”? How about, time heals. How much time does it take? It is different for everyone, but if you are in your second year and still thinking this hurts so much, you my friend are not alone. If you have not had to deal with this type of loss but you know its coming, know that the one year timeframe is an old way of thinking. Grieving is like climbing a mountain, slow and steady up that mountain you go, but one pebble, one limb and you lose your balance and you slide back a little.
My pebbles or limbs are the triggers that make me backslide in my grief, and yes my mental health. The numbness of Tom’s death is fading and the very real pain of his loss is what I am feeling. Backsliding makes me mad. My head says I should be doing better, but my heart and soul react differently to the triggers. The one difference between then and now is that I have learned in the past year to give myself grace. To be gentle with myself and realize grieving is in my time, not where other’s believe I should be 16 months after losing my husband. The truth is, I put the timeline on myself based on years of hearing about the one year decision making statement. It is me that has put pressure on myself as I move through my grief. Sometimes, my internal voice tells me that others expect me to be further along or that I must be weak to not have moved farther than I have. I spoke at an event last week and in my talk said that ALS shattered my world, but it was Tom’s death that broke those remaining pieces of myself. That is such a big statement and how sad, but in year 2 that is exactly how I feel. Picking up the pieces is very hard when you do it alone, but I am the only person that can do it, because I have to be able to put the pieces back myself in the best way I can.
I recognize the place I sit at 16 months will be different at 24 months. I need to continue to be gentle with myself as I put the pieces of my shattered life back together which admittedly is hard because of the pressure on myself at times. Getting to the top will happen I know. I know this because somewhere in me, I know I am not weak but incredible strong. I will make it up my mountain, slip-sliding down many times before I eventually reach the top, but I will do it at my own pace. So if you are reading this and didn’t realize that grieving in year 2 is hard, please know it is, but also know you are strong, you will make it up the mountain. The trigger(s) that makes you slide back is just a pause in your grief journey, you will stop sliding and regain your footing. It is a lonely journey up the mountain, but it’s lonely because only you can find the right path up it. Give yourself the time it takes and when you reach the top, know the strength it took to get there was yours.