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After the First Year

I received a call today from a dear friend. A fellow warrior. A mom that walks this walk.


The second I picked up the phone I knew what kind of day she was having. I felt the familiarity in her tone and heard the shakiness in her voice. I’ve been the woman on the other end of the line too many times to count not to notice.


I softly whisper into the phone, “how are you doing?”. I know the answer before the words leave my mouth. The silent sobs on the other end begin. There is no point fighting them. They always win.


She finally let’s it all out, “I’ve hit my rock bottom. I am so empty. I’m at my lowest point I’ve ever been. It’s been two years and I’m at my lowest point...”


Over two years have passed since the death of her daughter and she is at her worst.


This is the part people on the other side don’t know about; this is the part they do not understand. This is what creates the gap between child loss parents and the rest of the world.


The misconception about losing a child is this: most people assume the very beginning, right when your child dies, is the worst. The first few days, weeks, months and year are the hardest and most heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, this time is a living hell on earth. I don’t know if words exist to describe it.


But that time is also a blur. Moments where the dots don’t connect to the next moment. Chunks of time forever missing from our memories. Constantly surrounded by so many people checking in on you. Life is continuing to go on around you because everyone is keeping it going for you. It’s as if you’re living an out of body experience in the first year, watching from the outside and thinking, “this can’t really be my life”.


Time passes...the first year is over. The hardest part, we’ve survived! Sure there will be hard days every now and then but it has to be so much easier than that first year.


NO.


The hardest part is what comes afterwards.


Life keeps going and you have to try to keep up with it. The job, the bills, the other children, the marriage, the holidays, the friends and social calendar. All the things. You’re trying your hardest to function but there is one thing that hasn’t changed. A piece of you is still missing. Your heart is still shattered. Your child is still dead.


I wasn’t surprised by this phone call two years after my friend lost her baby. I wasn’t surprised when she said she needs help. I wasn’t surprised when she said her grief and her drinking have taken control of her life and she needs rehab.


I’m not surprised when someone tells me decades after they’ve lost their child they still cannot sleep at night because of the nightmares from that day.


I’m not surprised when a marriage ends years after a couple has lost their child. Nor am I surprised when a mom has gained 50 pounds since her child’s death because taking care of herself just doesn’t feel so important anymore.


Want to know what does surprise me? Society thinking there is an expiration date on grief.


There will never be an expiration date on grief because there is not an expiration date on love.


We will learn to live with joy and pain in the same breath. We will have beautiful days and brutal days. This will forever be our balancing act.


To the other side, the lucky ones, be there for your friend or family member no matter how many years have passed since their child went to Heaven. Year one is just the beginning of grieving for the rest of their lives.