The Proverbial First Year-A Navigation of Grief

The proverbial first year- Everyone says “just get through the first year and things will get easier” as if it’s some magical number with some supernatural powers to make the world right again. So much emphasis is placed on this year mark by those who do not understand it. I don’t think it is so much of a grandiose banner you run through at the end of a race from hell, but rather, it is more of a gradient across an undesignated amount of time. Perhaps the “first year” is about survival- and after this raw, primitive instinct starts to wean, acknowledgment takes its place.

“Time is something I still can’t seem to put my hands on, can’t quite thumb it down, but yet can’t stop it from happening.”

fullsizer-4For the most part, you don’t even see yourself making these gradual shifts, but they do happen. One day you wake up, fumble through your day and it dawns on you..”I haven’t cried today”. For me, it was about 4 months after Tyler’s passing that I realized I didn’t cry and fall apart all before putting my feet on floor that the morning. It may not seem like progress to people on the outside, but that’s monumental. And then the guilt sets in “why haven’t I cried yet today” and then, naturally, you cry because of this. You can’t explain this guilt to someone who hasn’t gone through the situation because it’s lunacy to anyone else. However, it is a real thing..survivor’s guilt. And let me tell you, it’s bad enough all the other emotions you feel, but guilt on top of it runs you into the ground.

There are situations and circumstances that won’t ever make sense and we may never find the answers to them on this side of death. For me, that’s a hard pill to swallow. After Tyler passed away, I thought “if I can just find out what happened, I can make sense out of it”. Well that answer came and it didn’t alleviate any pain, it brought more questions. I will never know why God chose this, nor will I understand why he decided for it to happen in such a manner. In the early months, I couldn’t even walk into an unlit room without having an anxiety attack. While rocking Sawyer to sleep at night, it literally felt like my chest was going to explode and I couldn’t stop shaking because of having to sit in the dark with him. To that, I didn’t sleep by myself for 3 months. Between my mom, mother-in-law, and friends I was able to get through the empty nights. Going to bed each night continues to be a struggle for me and sleep in general is an area of contingency.


Time is something I still can’t seem to put my hands on, can’t quite thumb it down, but yet can’t stop it from happening. When I try to think back on the span of the year and try to recall specific moments or even months, I can’t- I think “how is it November again? November never truly left”. Having a small child forces you to march on, but you’re almost in a trance like state most days. You see the world moving around you and see it changing because you look at pictures of your child and he’s changing and growing, but it doesn’t make any sense to you. The majority of mornings I wake up and don’t even recognize my life. Death and grief rob you of much more than you realize. It not only takes the physical person and everything about them, but the rippling effect it has on everything else in your life is profound. Sawyer took his first steps the day after Tyler died and all I could do is cry when my Mom called for me to watch. Truth be told, I don’t even remember him learning to walk. I have two videos, that apparently I recorded, of his early steps. However, I have no recollection of it. It is like watching something for the first time and wondering how in the hell I missed it. These are the present moments that grief robs you of- moments that you can’t ever get back and moments that cannot be re-created.

fullsizer-5Life is messy, it’s chaotic, it’s a newly painted wall with spaghetti flung on it. If I had been asked a year ago to write this, it would look and sound very different. I’m in the throes of one of life’s greatest challenges and I’m still learning how to navigate this new path. There are days I’m optimistic, there are days I’m cynical, and there are days I laugh to keep from going insane. Can I say with absolute confidence that I am completely happy and at peace? Certainly not. What I can say is this- I continue to wade through the waters to find happiness in pieces and parts of my every day life. There continue to be days where I have more tears than smiles and I think that will always hold true.

Everyone says “just get through the first year and things will get easier” as if it’s some magical number with some supernatural powers to make the world right again.

That is part of loving someone down to the essence of your soul. They become so entwined into the fabric that forms you and without them you aren’t complete. Was our marriage perfect? Of course not, no one’s is- but, it was ours and I will forever miss it. I’ll always grieve the loss of Tyler and wonder what our life would have looked like. And perhaps, one day, I can look at a family enjoying an afternoon together without bursting into tears or watch an elderly couple holds hands while walking into a restaurant without breaking down. That day isn’t today, but in time it will come. Until then, I will carry on in this journey and seek out only the things that enrich and nurture my world and leave behind what doesn’t add value to my life and that of my son. There are an infinite amount of things you cannot control, but choosing to seek happiness is exactly that- a choice.



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