I stumbled through that first year after Jordan’s death one crapversary at a time; his birthday, the start of school, Thanksgiving, Christmas. All the while trying to convince myself that if we could just survive this first year…
But I came to learn that the year of firsts was only the prelude to “the symphony of unrelenting sorrow that is the year of seconds”. During that first year after your child dies you catch occasional glimpses of what your new life is going to be like, but you are still pretty much anesthetized by shock. You don’t truly really experience the full impact.
The “lonely year” is how one writer described the second year of grief. “This “loneliness” has nothing to do with having people around you, it is an intense, interior aloneness. The second year brings an exhaustion that has nothing to do with getting enough sleep. The second year is a hard part of the “climb”; hard scrabble terrain, rough, few footholds, and the atmosphere is thin. The second year is a year of thin patience.” (Terri Jackson)
I discovered that no longer being able to say “this time last year he was here” was a whole new kind of pain and the reality finally began to sink in that this is what the future looks like.
So I accepted that the second year was going to suck too. Understood that I just needed to keep breathing and moving forward to year three and then surely blessed relief would come. But suddenly it was July 30th and rather than feeling relief I found myself sinking into a black hole. I couldn’t write, couldn’t get these awful feelings out into the light of day, because I honestly could not understand what was happening to me.
I am so grateful to all those kind hearted souls who encouraged me to keep trying to find a therapist that worked for me. Because of their dogged faith, in September I tried again and met an amazing psychologist who is helping me put the pieces together.
At our first session we talked about the fact that I likely suffer from a form of post traumatic stress disorder. That memories of Jordan’s illness and those painful years of crisis and despair, and the guilt that stems from my belief that I didn’t do enough or didn’t do it right, grind away at me like millstones. I also shared that while thankfully they don’t come as often as they once did, I still have flashbacks to that last frantic drive to the hospital – and that when I do, I can still smell the scent of dirt and asphalt and sweat that filled my nose when I gave him his final kiss.
We also talked about some of the milestones that had occurred this year; Lucas turned 23, several of Jordan’s friends graduated or got married.
And then he asked me the question that brought me to my knees. Are you having any good memories of Jordan? And I said yes, as a matter of fact I was. That in amongst all the bad I find myself remembering so many good moments; like what a good big brother he was.
And precious moments like the walk we once took on a beach in Australia where the two of us ended up having this deep conversation about life.
So this is a whole new grief you are experiencing said the wise therapist. You are getting past the memories of his illness and his death and you are now grieving the Jordan that filled your life with love and laughter. You are grieving the loss of all those milestones – like the fact he won’t ever turn 24 or graduate or have his own family.
It was an enormous relief to see that I wasn’t losing my mind; that this was a normal and expected stage of grief. Don’t get me wrong – it still totally sucks that after 3 years it still hurts so much. But I am feeling hopeful again and it has restored my faith that if just I do the work, I will get through it. And maybe by the time year four rolls around, I will finally find myself in a better place.
“It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)