Everyone said the second year was harder than the first. I didn’t want it to be true. I couldn’t understand how it could be true. It isn’t that I didn’t believe them and it isn’t that I thought I was doing grief better, but still I hoped it wouldn’t be true.
I truly hoped and maybe even believed that somehow because I was embracing this process and writing and doing everything I could think to really process the grief and not ignore or deny it, that I would somehow get a pass on the second year being harder. I didn’t.
This is the four year anniversary of Shah arriving in the US. Until this point we had had a long distance relationship with lots of phone calls, texts, and goodbyes. The goodbyes were supposed to be over. We were supposed to spend the rest of our lives together. We did our first dance to the song You Are My Home. We were both finally at rest. Now he is the only one resting.
A year ago, when I wrote about all the things I was grateful for about this date, it was completely true. It is just as true today, but my primary emotion today is not gratefulness, but overwhelming sadness. He has been gone too long.
You see, the thing I could not understand during the first year, is how separately from the death, you grieve the days he is not with you. I had a glimpse of it after the first week and the first month, when suddenly, he was not here just a few days ago. A year ago, he had “only” been gone 8 months. We had still been together so much longer than we had been apart. There was still a huge part of it that was not real. I never thought he was coming back, but he wasn’t really quite gone.
Now he has been gone more than a year and a half. I’ve had to live without him for more than half a year TWICE. Next time this anniversary rolls around, he will have been gone longer than he was here.
It is this living without him that is so hard. The shock has worn off. There is no way to make it wear off any faster. But I don’t like that I’ve now lived 19 months without him, that I’m that much further way from our happy life together.
Today, I stood freezing, watching our daughter play in the snow again on my own. She is a delight, but it was another day of my life lived without him. It was another painful loss.
I wanted to know what to expect when Shah died. I asked many people about their own journey. Some people don’t. If you know a new widow, don’t tell her how much harder the second year will be unless she asks. It was good for me to know, but it won’t be for everyone, and the only people who told me were people I did ask. When the second years comes, don’t heap confusion onto pain by telling her she should be feeling better. Don’t think this year should be easier. Don’t tell her to get over it . . . EVER. Now that I’m here, I can’t imagine my second year could be any other way. The first year is about survival. Only once you’ve made it to the one year mark, can you start to fully remember and just feel the pain of what was stolen by death.
It isn’t that my life is worse or that I’m moving backwards or that I’m having trouble moving forward. You can move forward when you are in pain. It is simply that the shock, horror and trauma has worn off, and I’m able to remember the good so much more. With remembering the good comes feeling the pain of the loss even more. I’m grieving because he wasn’t with me this year. I’m grieving because he wasn’t with us today.
Widows seem mixed about year three. The majority say it is better, but some say it is still worse. I’m hoping to go with the majority on this one. I’m hoping next year the pain will be weaker and the healing stronger.
NOTE: Every loss is different. Everyone experiences loss differently. Everyone feels loss differently. This is just my experience. You will have your own.