I’ve decided that comparisons like “easier” or “harder” / “better” or “worse” don’t really apply when it comes to grief. These words attempt to simplify a highly complex process that has billions of caveats because everyone’s grief journey is so unique.
However, humans crave order to feel in control.
So in the two years of navigating life without my late husband, I wanted to offer a look at some of the differences between my first and second year of grief. Perhaps not to show that it’s gotten “easier,” but that even through the chaos, fear and uncertainty of life…
We can find peace and empowerment by learning to adapt!
So here it goes:
Shift 1: MOVEMENT ➡️ STILLNESS
Exercise has been and always will be my “go-to” outlet for coping with grief. During year one, I needed to physically move my body to feel and release the anxiety and anger that consumed me almost daily. I couldn’t “sit with” my grief because my emotions were too BIG — too overwhelming. If I didn’t workout I fell victim to the negative thoughts swirling in my mind and trapped by my circumstance.
But, in year two, I started to discover the power of stillness in addition to moving my body as means to cope. I found that after I released the energy of an emotion, I needed stillness to sit with my grief and understand what it was telling me —
What wounds needed attention?
What limiting beliefs were holding me back?
What external stressors were causing me so much inner turmoil?
Entering my third year of grief, I understand that I need movement, stillness or a combination of both!
Shift 2: SURREAL ➡️ REALITY
Year one was surreal. Most of the time I felt numb and detached — disconnected from the life I was living. It still didn’t feel real because I was in shock. Yet, as the fog lifted so did the floodgates to my emotions.
I felt more anger and sadness as reality set in during year two. Everything felt more concrete and finite, which helped me accepting my loss (or rather surrender to it). But I felt SO much more!
Luckily I had learned a thing or two about grief in year one…
Shift 3: SURVIVING ➡️ HEALING
There is nothing that prepares you for the death of a loved one. So when the nightmare comes true and you lose everything you ever knew, loved, wished for and dreamed of, you are forced into a state of survival. This is a life you never wanted — in fact it’s your worst nightmare — and you are being asked to keep going! So you find a way to bear it — you endure, you exist, and day by day (sometimes minute by minute) you discover a way to pull through.
My survival strategies in year one were asking for help, working out (like … NONSTOP), getting curious about grief, resilience and how to survive hardship, and finding hope and inspiration from other widows, communities or friends who had experienced a loss.
I started making the shift from survival to healing when I began seeking meaning in my loss. I wanted more than to just bear or tolerate my new normal. So I focused on healing — how I could integrate this devastating loss into my life and find purpose moving forward. I’m still on this path today!
Shift 4: COURAGE ➡️ CONFIDENCE
The first year after a loss is called the “year of firsts” for a very valid reason — everything is totally foreign and new! From navigating the range and intensity of emotions, to taking care of the never-ending logistics, and filling in all of the gaps in your life that were once occupied by two! All of it was scary, painful, confusing and hard but with courage… I did it anyways.
With time and repeated action I found my footing and gained confidence in year two. I approached grief equipped with coping strategies, I knew my triggers, I made space for grief on major milestones — I had my roadmap!
This roadmap helped me create a healthy relationship with grief, which made it feel more manageable and freed up space to rediscover my identity and purpose.
Entering year three, I’m still get acquainted with this new, evolving version of myself. I’m learning how to trust in her feelings and intuition, yielding decisions and actions that propel me forward.
I’m feeling confident that with time, patience, perseverance, surrender and the willingness to adapt to whatever life hands her … everything will work out.
Maybe not the same, or “better” or “worse.”
And I’m genuinely ok with that.
If you’ve experienced a loss and are looking for gentle guidance on your grief journey, I would be honored to support you. You can learn more about all the ways we can work together here. Sending love and light your way!