Friday, April 24, 2015

Conventional wisdom is a liar

Conventional wisdom seems to state that the first year of grief is the worst. You have to get through all the "firsts" and each one has its own pain. First birthday without, first holiday without, first anniversary without, first.... first everything without. It's brutal. Everything is a reminder of without. Conventional wisdom is wrong, however. The first year isn't the worst. The first year is simply the first year.

As I came closer to the anniversary of Kevin's death a number of widowed friends told me that they found the second year to be worse that the first. I asked them why and they all said, essentially, that the numbness had worn off. I didn't know what to think.

Now, less than a month into the second year, I am beginning to get it. I don't think it's that I'm less numb (though that may be part that I can't recognize yet) but it's something about magical thinking that is encouraged by conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom suggests that after a year I should feel better. Part of me has bought into that. There is a part of me that keeps thinking I've been good. I've been doing my best to be okay. I've been REALLY good. So you can come back now. I'm a good girl, right? There is so much cognitive dissonance in grief and so much frustration over the fact that I can change none of this. I have never been so powerless. No matter how good I am, no matter how diligently I move through the world, Kevin is gone and I will never, ever, ever see him again in this life. Which looks to be annoyingly long. Conventional wisdom is wrong. I don't really feel better, but I sometimes thing I should.

That's part of what I'm having trouble with as I move into this second year of life without. I think part of me thought that, if I got through the first year, got through all of the firsts, that things would somehow be different. That Kevin would somehow be back in my life or at least I would feel more balanced. I feel no better today, 56 weeks after his death, than I did 51 weeks after his death.

Conventional wisdom does us as much harm as good here. Because on some level I had some expectation that things would be different in the second year, the ongoing pain feels sharper, even if it is little different from the pain yesterday or a month ago. What's more, because of the conventional wisdom that it takes about year (to my shame I know I've said that to people before I experienced loss. Please forgive me.) others' expectations of how I should be doing are skewed. Grief takes as long and as much as it takes. Today it's taking a lot, my face is stinging from my tears. Tomorrow it might take less. I won't know until tomorrow comes.

I do know that this second year is bringing its own set of first. The first time I celebrate his birthday without him for the second time. The first time I observe Passover without him for the second time. The first time I experience the without for a second time. Layer upon layer of memory. Our lives are sedimentary.

I imagine this time next year I will write something about how the second year was both better and worse than I had hoped. I imagine there will be new ease and new pain. I don't know who I will be in a year. All I know is it will be another year, another layer, another set of new first and new withouts.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. The idea that it just gets easier was bad for me. My worst was in the second year when i had a big setback -- not on an anniversary and felt i was almost back at the beginning.


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