Living life after loss
can be tricky. Grief changes over time. Last week was our week. It was the week that ends the month of April, but also is the end of a month that my kids and I dread every year. April 29th is the anniversary of the death of my late husband, my kids’ father. It is the month from hell.
It’s odd that even after nine years, my body still physically responds to the countdown to April 29th. The first year, I became physically sick the week leading up to the first anniversary of his death. A cousin had warned me that sickness could occur, and it did with me. Presently, I don’t get physically sick, but my body physically reacts. Even if I haven’t thought about what is coming, I have found that my body sends me signals before my brain realizes that the anniversary is approaching. I’m moody, teary, more emotional than other times. I realize this and recognize that my body knows that date even if I haven’t mentally thought about it.
I know that this aspect of grief my seem strange if you haven’t lost someone prematurely in life. I also know that if you have experience a loss like mine, you understand me completely.
This year was harder than the past couple of years. Maybe because 2020 was such a mess, I didn’t notice the grief as much last year. A family member very dear to us had just recovered from a terrible case of COVID-19. My father passed away on April 5th. So much was going on that I think the 29th was just one more thing last year, and didn’t stand out to me as much.
My daughter and her fiancé are staying with us for a while this year. She and I have never been together on the anniversary of her dad’s passing. Maybe seeing her, being with her had something to do with it being harder this year. This thought brings me to how grief changes over time.
Grief Changes Over Time
The first year was almost unbearable at times. My heavy heart was a constant companion for most of the year. I remember the day seven months after his death when I realized that I hadn’t broken down crying that day. There was such a dark cloud over my life, and I was ready to get that first anniversary behind me.
The next few years, my kids and I (the Three Musketeers) stumbled through our lives without their dad, the leader of our family. We all made several life altering decisions. The kids both graduated from college and started working. I remarried during year three of our life without him.
We were moving forward- putting one foot in front of the other. I couldn’t bear to have it any other way. I was not going to let their father’s death negatively impact their lives. I told them at the beginning that we were not going to fall apart as a family because of his death.
The next few years were full of other changes. My daughter moving from NYC to Chicago for work. My son getting married. My daughter getting engaged. So many big changes happening– so much that he’s missing.
And that is how grief changes over time.
In the beginning. We missed his physical presence. I missed talking to him about decisions with the kids, the house, money etc. I missed our trips and meals together.
We have gotten used to him physically not being with us. The kids have gotten used to not being able to call him with questions or to get advice. I’ve remarried and am very happy in my new life.
The grief now is the sadness for him and what he has missed. He has missed so many big events in the kids’ lives. He’s missed one wedding and will miss another. The one he will miss is for his daughter so he won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. He never got to meet my son’s wife or my daughter’s fiancé. He doesn’t know what work they are both doing. He doesn’t know what they look like as adults.
When I allow my mind to go there- thinking of all that he has missed. My heart breaks all over again. I also grieve for what my kids have lost by not having him in their lives for nine years. It’s heartbreaking to me.
I do understand that the pain of grief means that someone we loved very much is worth the pain. That pain is there because we all loved him BIG!!
Yes, grief changes over time. The deep, soul crushing pain of those early years subsides.
The pain of grief changes over time, but it never goes away.
I’ve seen this illustration of grief used quite often. It shows how the grief we carry gets smaller as time goes on. Another explanation that I like about time and grief is that over time, our lives grow around the grief. If we allow healing, our lives become so abundant that although we carry the grief with us, our life is so big and the grief has stayed the same, the grief seems smaller to us in our full life.
I like to think that my life and my kids’ lives are so abundant and full that they have outgrown the grief!