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Is the Second Year Worse?

Is the second year after a loved one’s suicide worse? The simplest answer to that question is, “It depends.” It depends on many factors. For some, the first few months are the absolute hardest and once those pass, it becomes not easier–but less hard, if that makes sense.

Some people find the entire first year is absolutely the worst pain they could possibly feel. Then, after getting through all the “firsts” (birthday, anniversary, holiday season, and other dates that have special memories) it gets easier.

Other survivors are in a deep “fog” during the first months or year and sometimes find the second year harder than the first one. Their minds went to such lengths to protect them during the first year, they did not have a chance to truly grieve for their lost loved one. Once that fog lifts and the subconscious mind begins to allow”reality” to intrude, it can feel like the pain is worse than it was at the beginning.

Is the pain that comes with reality worse? Perhaps “worse” is a poor choice of words. “Extremely different” might be more accurate. I’ve compared the pain of losing my son to being on a roller-coaster of emotions. The highs and lows hit fast and furiously in the beginning.

I’ve also compared grief to being on a beach during a storm with huge waves. Devastating at first, but as the storm dies down, the waves become a bit smaller with greater intervals between and it’s easier to remain on one’s feet when they hit. Now I tend to think of myself as being on a spiral staircase. I find myself passing those emotional “dates” on a slightly higher level of awareness of my own emotional balance.

On significant dates, I imagine myself leaning over the railing of that staircase, looking down at where I’ve been in my healing journey and realizing that, although I still feel the pain and the sorrow and still miss my son as much as at the first moment I learned of his death, I’m moving forward on the stairway to healing.

There is no timetable for grief. There is no set of rules. You will know what is best or most healing for you along the way. Listen to your own heart first and know that there really is no “end” to the journey, just that upward climb back to life.  Allow yourself to trust that life will be good again and it will. You will always remember. You will always have an ache in your heart and feel like a part of you was ripped away, but there comes a time when you will no longer feel that overpowering pain that takes our breath away and leaves us unable to function.