The first year of grief and loss is typically thought to be the hardest. You learn how to breathe again. You learn how to compartmentalize your life and manage (even mask) your grief. Survival through each milestone, creating a new normal, and learning how to keep going takes all of your energy and focus. So when we hit the first year of grief mark, a small part of me started to relax a little bit. I’ve done this once, next time should be easier, right?!
I was telling my daughter’s therapist about a couple of our big breakthroughs since our last visit. She wondered if maybe it was due to the fact we were through the first year. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe. Then she said something I haven’t been able to shake.
She went on to reiterate what I expected from grief and loss in year one, relating it to my daughter. Then she said, “Year two is always harder on bereaved parents than year one.” A moment of shock made me pause and take in what she just said. She continued to add, “The first year is expected to be hard so people try their best to be supportive. Since the loss is new, they remember more of the big milestones and acknowledge them. In year two that stops happening. It can be a very difficult adjustment.” I had to sit with that information for a bit.
Was my worst nightmare about to be realized? Were more people going to stop remembering or acknowledging? I had thought maybe we were through all of that and those left in our lives today would continue their support unchanged. I guess that isn’t realistic.
My heart is not ready for the circle to get even smaller. It feels like the universe is pulling him further away from me. The loss of control over my life makes my head spin. It has me bracing for the next storm.
Then something beautiful happened.
As we pulled into the school parking lot, my daughter’s class was just entering the playground for recess. There was a new play structure erected. I watched in awe as the children entered the playground. They shuffled past the new climbing structure, walked to the opposite side of the playground, and stopped right in front of Cameron on the wall. There was a noticeable pause before they all scattered to run and play.
My heart melted. I’m not sure if this is common practice, but I like to think it was Cameron’s way of letting me know I shouldn’t worry. While grief and loss will continue to be a daily struggle, it will all be OK.