5 Lessons from My 2nd Year of Grief

photo of woman holding sparkler

For the rest of my life, the 4th of July will never be the same. 2 years ago, I received a call that would forever change my life.

“Your father is dead, you need to come right away,” a chaplain simply stated to me as I was making a cup of coffee in my in-laws kitchen. My dad had committed suicide. That was all I was told before I made the excruciating three hour drive to Lake Erie.
These past two years have been a roller coaster of emotions and so many unanswered questions. And while the first year of grief is very distinct and raw, I think that the second year of grief has offered its set of unique experiences and feelings. As I reflect on all that has happened since the last 4th of July, there are five distinct lessons I’ve learned from the second year of grief:

1. Time Doesn’t Heal Everything: The pain I feel has turned from acute to chronic. It is not an imminent danger, but it is always there. I will carry this loss with me for the rest of my life. It will not go away. It is a part of me – a wound that only I can see. During this second year of grief, the scar tissue has built up and I am tougher and stronger. But I can still feel the pain of all that once was there, like phantom limb after an amputation.

2. Life Goes On: Whether you want it to or not, life goes on while you are just trying to survive. Adulting does not stop even though you want to hit pause: there is work to do, kid(s) to raise, and bills to pay. Grief is just something I now juggle with everything else in my life. I can either choose to ride the currant or let it pull me under, and I am making an active effort move forward while also leaning in to all that has shaped me and my life.

3. Grief has Changed Me: Post-traumatic growth is a real thing, and something I have definitely experienced. I take way more risks now, splurge on experiences I would have never done before, and I push myself to the limit. I only have one life to live, and I want to make it count. In the past 2 years I have changed my career, started a blog, bought a new house closer to family, sat in the Pit at a Taylor Swift concert, met John Legend, went to NYC to see Jimmy Fallon, signed up for my first half marathon, and more. My dad’s suicide has opened my eyes to the fragility of life, and I refuse to wallow and instead try to savor all that life has to offer.

4. A Strong Support System is so Important: After the first few days after a loved one passes away, it can feel like you are simply abandoned and left to deal with everything yourself. Friends and family have to get back to their lives (because life goes on). Even though I was always thinking about my dad, it was hard to bring up memories in conversation or to have those conversations with others. And the second year of grief has definitely been more lonely than the first. A lot has changed in my life in the past year, and many people don’t even know about my dad’s passing and it would be really awkward to bring up all the details in a random conversation. Thankfully, I was able to find a core group of loved ones who continue to understand, support, and acknowledge that this is a part of my life that has shaped me. Grief is a journey, and one that has not ended two years later. This will be a lifelong route, and I am grateful to the handful of friends and family who are with me through it all.

“When anything bad happens and I start feeling overwhelmed I just tell myself, “You have already gotten through the worst possible thing in your life. If you could get through that, you can get through anything.”

5. I Can Get Through Anything: Now, when anything bad happens and I start feeling overwhelmed I just tell myself, “You have already gotten through the worst possible thing in your life. If you could get through that, you can get through anything.” This has been a source of power and confidence, especially during this past year. If I can get through a random stranger telling me my dad committed suicide, plan a funeral, write his obituary, see my dad in a casket with a bullet hole in his right temple, give a eulogy in front of hundreds of people days later without shedding a tear, go back to work 3 days later, and also maintain a household and raise a child, then I can surely get through telling my current boss I am leaving my role of seven years, conducting a successful product launch, navigating all the hoops of selling my house, and more. I am a victor, not a victim, and I will continue to play the hell out of the cards I am dealt.

Fish On,

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