Surviving the First Year

When people say the wrong thing

Most people, upon hearing of your loss, are themselves at a loss. They have no idea what the right thing to say is. If you’re among the thoughtfully enlightened, you may hear ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’ Nothing else is more healing than those few words spoken from the heart.

When the “what ifs” come

What if… What if I had … What if I hadn’t … What if I had seen … What if I had known … What if I hadn’t let him drive? What if I hadn’t let him go to the lake? What if I had been more strict? What if I had listened better?

Answering the hard questions

Invariably the moment comes when you are at the grocery store or a restaurant or a meeting and you see someone you haven’t seen for a while who doesn’t know about the loss of your child. You exchange pleasantries in hopes that the conversation doesn’t ‘go there’. But it’s never that easy.

Your physical health and spiritual well-being

In the first year after your loss, you will need to learn how to take care of this person you have become. It may be that whatever worked for you before still works for you now. Or you may need to approach your care and feeding anew. The important thing to remember is to take care of your physical and spiritual needs whether you want to or not.

Your child’s belongings

What do you keep, what do you give away and what do you do with the rest?  If you can, let time pass and healing begin before you make any decisions about your child’s belongings. Early on, this task can be emotionally overwhelming. Your grief colors everything now, including your judgment.  

Celebrating the holidays

Mason died right before Christmas. In a space of less than three weeks, we were to celebrate Christmas (our first grandchild’s first Christmas) and what would have been Mason’s 35th birthday. We had no time to prepare our hearts.

Your relationship with your surviving children

Our kids became very close after our son’s death, bonded to each other in a way they had never been before. They were each other’s support system, sharing the loss of their brother as only siblings could. My husband and I grieved together as only parents could. We were all doing our best to find our way, but it appeared we would do so, not as a family, but on two separate paths.

Your marriage is vulnerable: take care

It’s said that grief tears us apart with the reckless abandon of a tornado.  Sometimes there’s enough remaining to rebuild and sometimes the only thing you can do is to move on and start over. My husband and I count ourselves fortunate to have survived the storm and to have come through it even stronger, but that’s not to say we weren’t tossed about by the high winds and threatened by the falling trees. 

Getting through the challenges of the first long year

Before your loss you probably looked forward with anticipation to the many holidays and causes for celebration throughout the year. Now you might be filled with dread at the thought of having to endure another event where you feel anything but celebratory. Everything is different now and you need to recognize that what you feel in any given moment is your truth for that moment.