We have officially survived our first year of loss. I’m not really sure how. It doesn’t seem possible to be standing where we are today. I still wish I would wake up and have it all be a nightmare.
Through this journey we have received a lot of advice. Nothing really prepares you. You simply learn to find comfort in the support you receive. As time goes on you learn coping mechanisms to get through your days and learn to live again.
So much of this journey is individual. All you can do is go through it. Experience it. It has been eye opening. Today I want to share some of what I’ve learned.
21 Things I Learned In Our First Year Of Loss:
- It’s nothing like I imagined it would be. Those last 12-hours in the hospital I knew were our last. In those moments I imagined life without him. Never seeing him, hugging him, hearing his voice again. An empty seat at the table and in the car. No more memories, holidays, arguments, laughs. Those thoughts, as heartbreaking as they were, never came close to reality.
- Depression is suffocating. Intense depression took over the first 9-months, though most people would never know. Caring for my other children was too much most days. Every single task is a struggle.
- Child loss is more prevalent than I ever knew. I couldn’t believe the number of people impacted. Becoming part of the club is eye opening. There is an instant bond created the moment you realize you have it in commonChild Loss: It Can Happen To You.
- You will make people uncomfortable. No one is sure what to say. Everyone walks on pins and needles afraid to upset you. Many dance around the topic or seem to forget entirely. It is up to you to set the stage of how you want it to be.
- Everyone grieves differently. Every single person. It is not what you expect. Some people don’t cry. Humor is a coping mechanism for others. Avoidance. Disinterest. Over the top emotions. Every moment is different for every single person. Just accept it. Allow people to take their own journey.
- Every single thing will remind you of your loved one. A song on the radio. TV shows they used to watch. Something someone says. A look your other child makes. A smell. Every day activities your family will do that they are no longer a part of. Places they went with you. New places they never saw. Constantly, every day.
- You will get angry at people that mean well. Things that seem stupid will feel like a big deal. People that have never lost a child will tell you they know how you feel. Others will say things like, “At least he’s in a better place.” Some will ignore your loss completely and pretend it never happened. You will learn how to respond in grace.
- You will hate your new normal. This new life you didn’t ask for that you are now forced to live will feel unbearable at times. It doesn’t mean you love those in it any less. However, it will never feel the same again.
- You will feel happiness at times. It will always be coupled with sad. Every moment of happy will have a sad undertone because they are not here with you. I believe it will always be this way. The reverse is also true. Crying and feeling sadness over your loss will have an undertone of happy because it is full of them.
- The anxiety leading up to milestones is sometimes worse than living those firsts. My mind fills with thoughts of our last time before the milestone date. I feel anxious about that day coming. When the day comes, it is like every other day. Just add a few more memories.
- I get to choose the moments that are hardest. It is not always a milestone like everyone would expect. Those around you may brace for things they think should affect you. However, I get to choose the days and moments that impact me the hardest.
- Grief shows up when you least expect it. You rarely know when. It is always when you least expect it. Something will come out of nowhere and knock every ounce of being out of you.
- You will be a different person. There is a missing link between the person that stands here now and the person I once was. I search hard for ways to get back to that person I was. I miss her. The world is a very different place. My reaction to it has changed dramatically. I have finally learned to put myself and my family first.
- People will surprise you. Some of the people you thought would be there, aren’t. People that really step up may be unexpected. You will find some people leave your life completely. I believe it is all meant to be.
- Your beliefs will be tested beyond anything you can imagine. Whether you are a religious person or not, your beliefs will be tested. I am crystal clear now. No doubts in my mind. A loss like this triggers a spiritual journey like no other.
- There are signs everywhere! Your loved one will send you signs. I do not believe in coincidences. Things will pop up at just the right time. They are still here.
- You create your own timetable. There are no rules. You do everything at your own pace. I still have his toothbrushes out. It is all OK. You get to decide how, when or if things happen.
- They want you to be happy! Every decision I make. Every fun thing I force myself to do. All of it is because I know he would want me to be happy. He is there cheering us on. I do these things because of him.
- Somehow time keeps passing. I never thought I’d make it a year. I never thought I’d make it a month. No matter how much time passes, it is unbelievable. It feels like yesterday.
- You will survive. I am the first one to say I wish I was with him. Not that I am suicidal or wish for death, but every day I get closer to being with him. It is my motivation in a way, as morbid as that sounds. By putting one foot in front of the other. Living through each moment you will learn to survive, even thrive. This doesn’t mean they are any less on your mind or in your heart.
- It Is Not Strength, It Is Necessity. People call me strong. They ask how we get through it. They admire us or say we inspire them. It is not strength. It is simply because we have no other choice.