The first birthday, the first round of holidays, the first anniversary of a death date. Those are all the worst right? Not necessarily. I’d like to hear what others have experienced, but both from my personal life and the parents I’ve worked with the second year is actually harder.
I believe this to be true for several reasons. The obvious one is that your friends and family are aware this is going to be a difficult day for you, they often reach out to let you know they’re thinking of you. They may even ask if they can do something special for or with you. They expect you to be struggling and want to help relieve the pain.
Secondly, you are expecting the day to be hell. You know you’re going to be hit with facing a birthday without the person you would be celebrating. You know you’ll see an empty seat where your loved one should’ve been sitting around the table at Thanksgiving. You prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the extra level of sadness you’re going to feel.
Then once you’ve gotten through the first year of all of these firsts without your person you breath a sigh of relief. You made it! You may be a wreck, but you made it…
Suddenly it’s the second round of celebrations and you’re flat on your back with grief. What?!? Well, you don’t have the network of support and understanding you had the first year. Most people assume you’re back to “normal” life. They aren’t mean spirited, they just don’t know. You yourself didn’t mentally and emotionally prepare like you did last year because you didn’t have a clue it would still hit you this hard and hurt so much.
And here’s the biggie…Reality has sunk in, this isn’t just a first year without your loved one, this IS the new normal. Your person will NEVER be back to celebrate with you. You knew that in your head, but now you’re experiencing in the cold hard light of day and it sucks.
So, what can you do?
- Know ahead of time this year (even in years 3-50+ because you never know how and when an unfinished wave of grief may hit) may be worse and create strategies to take care of yourself and honor both your loved one and your grief.
- Talk to someone you love who will listen and tell them your fears about the upcoming celebrations and ask them to be there for you. If you know, be clear about what will be helpful and if you don’t let them know that too.
- Create a ritual, it can be very simple, that allows you to acknowledge your loved one on these days.
- Be patient and gentle with yourself. The further out you get from your loved one’s death you get the less other people will think to hold space for you so you will need to be your own best advocate and create space for yourself.
There are plenty of you who are beyond the first year, what has worked for you? What hasn’t worked for you? Please share with me so I can share with others!
Peace and aloha,