The grief from losing a child is the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. There is also another grief present in my life right now that I can’t explain due to depth and freshness of the grief. Furthermore, it’s not only my grief to explain. But…it, also has been a very difficult grief to work through and to accept. Grief is so very common in our society, but it talked about so very little. No one ever explains grief to you…you are just thrust in its midst and are left to figure it out as you go. And it is the most difficult mental and physical experience that has ever crossed my path. There are so very many things that I wished I could have known….or I could have at least been prepared for….but you just don’t think about the things you need to know…until you need to know it.
One thing that I have learned…and I’ve heard others say it, but year two is just as hard as year one…maybe even harder. Year one is filled with shock and denial. It’s almost like you spend that entire first year living in a fog….coming to terms with the fact that your child really did die. You wake up in the mornings still trying to figure out if its real or if it was just a nightmare. Unfortunately, after a few moments awake, you realize that it’s reality. As I look back through my journals in those first few months after Aaron’s death, many of my entries start with…”I’m not sure where I am right now.” And that’s exactly how you feel throughout that first year. The first year is spent coming to terms with the death….not acceptance..that’s something completely different. Coming to terms just means that you finally realize that your child did die. You go through all the first milestones….the first year anniversary…the first Christmas….the first Thanksgiving….the first birthday….the first Easter…the first family gathering since their death….The year of the firsts. You anticipate each and everyone and dread those days with a dread unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life. You anticipate all of those in that first year….and then comes year two…
Year two….there are almost no words to explain year two. I’m in the midst of year two…but the one thing I can say for sure about year two is that permanence has set in. The realization that your child will no longer spend any more Christmases or any other holiday with your family is a permanent reminder. For that matter, your child will spend no more days PERIOD with your family. Permanent acceptance has set in in year two and it is the worst acceptance I have ever had to make. It’s an enduring acceptance…an acceptance that this is what life is like from here on out. It’s an overwhelming saddened acceptance that you must face each and every day without the presence of your child. Year two….harder than the first? I’m not sure if year two is harder….but it is equally as hard as year one….just in a different way. Year one is denial, shock and numbness….Year two is complete permanent acceptance. Both very difficult to navigate in their own way…because there is no guide book telling you what you will feel how crazy the emotions will make you feel…and despite what anyone tells you…don’t buy the myth that there are 5 stages of grief that occur in a nice neat linear fashion. There is nothing farther from the truth. In my opinion, there are no stages….but phases that intermingle, overlap and with each other….there are no clearly defined stage markers that decipher where you are in your grief. Instead, it’s like a balls of yarn with strings of emotions curling and overlapping other other balls of yarn…leaving a tangled mess of strings that are so interwoven that they can’t be separated. That’s what the “stages” of grief feel like.
The other thing that I have noticed in my own grief is the need to make sense of the tragedy. Why did it have to be my son? Why did he have to die? I am the type of person that needs to know the why behind things that happen….I wished someone had told me that there will likely never be an answer for the why…and that the why doesn’t really matter at this point. Finally, one day, I asked myself, “Does it really matter why? If I knew the why, how would it benefit me or my family?” When I finally came to that acceptance, a sense of freedom engulfed my soul. Now does that mean that I haven’t had that question resurface….no it doesn’t. But what has happened, is that I am better equipped to deal with the that question when it enters my mind. I know that I am never going to fully understand, on this earth, why Aaron had to leave this world at such a young age. And I’ve resigned myself to that understanding. I still have days, though, where it still makes me angry…it just doesn’t consume my thoughts anymore.
And…you know that saying…Time heals all wounds? Yeah…that’s not really true. The wound I have in my heart will never heal….it may scar, but it will never heal. So, instead…I would say that “Time helps you learn to better cope.” The wound I have from losing my child will never heal…how could it?…because there is no one that could ever take his place. However, as time passes, I do believe that I will learn to cope with his absence a little better with each passing year. That’s what I’m hoping anyway….right now I’m still learning to cope. It’s like each year after their passing opens a new milestone to which you must learn to adjust. It’s a never ending learning curve. Your heart is continually opened to new assaults…and you just have to learn how to best adjust for the newest attack…the newest wave. Like I said, there’s no guide book to guide us through these attacks, we just have to take them as they come and learn from them. We just have to study those assaults and acquire the knowledge needed to make it through the battering storms. I don’t know that we will ever beat those storms…we just have to learn how to ride them out so that we are still standing once the storm has passed.
So, if you are riding through this storm with me…and you are experiencing grief that often leaves you battered and bruised…remember that you are not alone. Not many people talk about it, because its not positive…and it is, quite frankly, depressing. But we grieving parents need each other….despite the lack of positivity….we need each other. We need someone that understands our sad moods….our sad demeanor….our depressed sense of being. Because unlike anyone else, we are willing to talk about what others feel uncomfortable talking about…We are willing to talk about your grief…your sadness…your despair…..because we all know what it feels like.
Please feel free to post at the end of this blog….please feel free to share your sadness…your grief. We have to be here for each other.
Love to all of you suffering the loss of a child….
Love to my daughter, Taylor for dealing with the loss of her brother and another form of grief. You are such a strong young woman.
Love to my son, Aaron who died last year….2/10/16 – We love and miss you!
11 thoughts on “What No One Ever Tells You About Grief”
Thank you for writing this. It was comforting to read the words that I agreed with and totally understood. I have discovered the pain never goes away. It is always just right beneath the surface. Some days I hide it better than others.
Sadly, we share the fact that we have both lost a child and they left us on the same exact day… 2/10/16. My daughter Mary was 21 when she was killed. I will keep you in my thoughts and especially in my prayers. 💙
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Oh my goodness, Elisa. My son was 23. I am so sorry for your loss. We share an unfortunate bond…but we can be here for each other. And I will keep you in my prayers as well. 💔❤️
My son was 33 killed on the job 8/10/2016, the company had a policy that I feel lead to my son being killed. He left a wife of less than 2 years and a nine month old daughter. We are broken beyound words. Never thought we’d be walking this path. Your words are so true. Some days I feel like we can walk this path together and some days I want to crawl up in a ball and hide from the world. Prayers for all of us who have lost their child.
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I’m so very sorry for your loss, Teri. I understand your feeling of brokenness….and I agree…some days I can pull it together…and other days I just withdraw. Prayers to your family and all walking this journey. 💔
It’s the most awful, overwhelming, isolating sadness I’ve ever known. My wonderful son Joseph was kind, generous, funny and so sweet. Forever 33. It is forever August 4, 2016 for me because I ended when he was killed by a distracted driver that day. Thank you for your story and God bless you. So sorry you are also in this “club” 💔😢💔😢💔😢
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Pam, I am so sorry for your loss. My son is forever’23. Thinking of you and your family! Prayers…💔❤️
I lost my beautiful 33 yr old daughter on January 18, 2015. I still cry every day and wonder how I can make it through the rest of my life with such saddness. I am so sorry that you all have had to suffer this grief I pray for us all 💔💔💔💔
We lost our son, Colten, 1/30/17. All of this is so hard. I miss him so much. Several people have recently told me year 2 is harder. Dreading it. Some days I am so exhsusted I can’t function. I question why all the time. I am sorry we all belong in this club. The dues are too high.
Yes, Michaelle, the dues are way too high. Praying for you and your family.
Thank you for writing this. It would be so important for family and friends to read this. That has truly been the hardest thing since the death of my daughter. I have been maligned, judged, ostracized and so deeply hurt all over again. It has been cruel beyond words. It is only the mothers and the fathers who have known the depths of this pain, who are capable of holding the space with love, and kindness. I will pass your article to some of these people though i doubt they will read it. They should. It can happen to anyone. I made this TED talk for all of us and in the hope, frail though it may be, that others will learn the kindness of the little orphan children in Tanzania – you will see it in the talk. Please share it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV54J3JSdBg
Thank you for sharing this . It is an endless nightmare that we can never wake from. My youngest daughter died a month ago. She was 20. And I cannot seem to find any reason to live without her. Not my husband nor my other two children. It is a wretched feeling layered throughout the grief and pain.