Beginning the Second Year

Many years later I can still recall the day after the one year anniversary of my father’s death. I thought, “Okay, I’ve made it through the first year. Now what?” It’s the “Now what?” that I remember so vividly.

I realized that I had accomplished something. His birthday, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas had now come and gone without his physical presence and I had survived, although just barely it seemed at times. Painful as it was, though, I couldn’t discount the fact that here I was, still alive, still needing to go on in some way.

On the other hand, had my grief ended? No, I couldn’t say that. It was different than it was a year before but aspects of it were still with me. As it would turn out, I learned more about my grief in the second year, and this wisdom would help me to understand my grief from the past and prepare me for the future.

These are the insights that helped me that second year:

As time goes on, I actually start feeling closer to loved ones who have died. This is in an emotional and spiritual way, not in a physical one.

The pain of grief allows me to feel connected to deceased loved ones. Ultimately, the grief over them becomes gratitude to them, and this is a stronger bond.

Getting to a point where I’m no longer thinking of my loved ones all the time does not mean I’m forgetting them or that I don’t love them anymore. It just means I’m not thinking about them all the time. After all, I didn’t think about them all the time when they were healthy and happy.

It’s okay to have strong feelings at times, or mixed feelings, or no feelings. It’s possible to function day to day nonetheless, at least on some level.

We need moments of pleasure in our grief. These are just as normal as moments of pain. Both help us to make our way through the confusion of grief.

Having faith, living with hope or finding meaning and purpose in our life helps us to understand everything that happens to us in a larger, more eternal context.

And so the first year has ended. The second year has begun. Allow yourself to be just a little bit excited about what you might learn this year. You can do it. Fare well.