Grieving in the Second Year After a Loss

 

GrievingThere is a pretty well-accepted theory on grieving that the first year is the hardest. The loss is so new, the first months can be spent in a blur of shock and disbelief.

This can be especially true for a sudden loss, but can surprise people when they are in “shock” even after a loved one has died following a long and drawn out illness.

I’ve said it many times: nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can prepare us for the finality of death.

Navigating that first year, through anniversaries, birthdays and holidays can feel endless. But the assumption for most is that as long as they can get through that, it should be smoother sailing in the days ahead.

And then year 2 happens.

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The Guilt of Relief

guilt of reliefWhen speaking with a person who has recently lost a loved one to a long illness, I often hear them say “I’m just relieved that she’s gone.”

And this statement is almost certainly followed with something like: “It’s just that she was suffering for such a long time. I love my mom, but for those last few years she wasn’t herself. She had no quality of life and I know she would not have wanted to live that way.…”

The fact is that relief is a complicated emotion when coupled with grieving.

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Caregiver No More

life after caregivingWe are born selfish. The only thing that matters to us in our earliest days is being fed, sleeping when we need it, and being comforted when we want it.

When we’re a little older, and we begin walking and talking and interacting with others, some of this starts to change. We’re expected to be patient, to share with friends, and to use our manners.

As time passes, expectations grow. Hold the door for others before you walk in. Don’t eat until everyone has been served. We are taught that others’ needs come before our own.

With maturity, in marriage and with parenting, the sacrifices continue. How quickly we go from “what do you want to be when you grow up?” to learning how to forfeit our interests for the sake of others. It seems that to be a “good” adult we must recognize that what we want isn’t always the primary concern.

Of course there’s a need for this. To be part of a society and to get along with others, we do need to learn some of these “rules” of benevolence.

But, oh, how quickly we lose the balance. And nothing is a greater example of this than the caregiver.

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