The first year marks the first time you experience and do everything without the person you have lost. Traditionally, society believed that it gets easier after the first year. Some still believe this nowadays. The truth is that the challenging time post-loss is as individual as the bereaved themselves. Trust in your own timeline processing grief.
1. Shock and numbness
The very first phase of grief will most likely be spent in numbness from the shock. This is a protective way for the body to help you cope with the intensity.
2. Surviving the first year
Living through the first phase of grief may not seem survivable. It may even seem as no relief to know other bereaved have walked this path before. It is survivable and it takes time and energy.
3. It is so painful
Just today I have been reminded of how to deal with pain. Experiencing physical pain today, I stayed in bed all day. Three different kinds of painkillers didn’t change the physical pain I felt. All that was possible was to lie in bed, clutch a hot water bottle and breathe, slipping between lying awake and drowsy sleeping. Similar to this I remember the physical experience of grief.
4. Conserving energy
Three years post my loss; I still notice the need to conserve my energy. In the first year, I remember not being able to go out for anything else than absolutely necessary. It took me quite some time to engage in social activities again, let alone enjoy them. Take your time.
5. Accept help and find support
In my case, there was no choice but to accept the help that was generously offered. Friends brought meals, organized paperwork, and helped with errands. Let them help you, it also makes them feel that they at least can do something for you.
Also, find the most suitable support for you, whether that is group counselling, one-on-one therapy, talking to other bereaved parents in the community or talking to a friend. Most importantly, according to the suggestions of grieving parents in a survey, do it earlier than later.
6. The first year is the hardest
In my case, the first 18 to 24 months were rough. The time frame where grief is intense varies from person to person. Your time might be shorter or longer. It doesn’t matter, it’s no contest.
7. It’s been a year
It is a myth that some people still believe that after a year the bereaved should be over the worst. Every bereaved person grieves differently, every lost person held a different place in people’s heart. Allow yourself your own time.
8. Friendships will change
Friends become strangers and strangers become friends. Dealing with loss brings up everyone’s own mortality and existential questions. This can be deeply unnerving. Some people will not be able to cope with this or believe ‘you need time’. Remember their intention is mostly well-meaning.
9. Be true to yourself
… even if this means disappointing another. The first year of grief uses a lot of vital energy. It has required me to focus on the essentials and be true to my needs, more than ever before.
10. Crying is healthy
Crying is a way to release emotional stress. This is why babies and children do this a lot. As adults, we have un-learned the benefit of taking time for ourselves and releasing pent-up emotional stress. Research has shown that tears vary in their composition. Tears from grief are healing.
Anything else you find important to mention about the first year of grief? Leave a comment below.
Read Surviving My The First Year Of Child Loss: Personal Stories From Grieving Stories.
This book is a compilation of first-hand accounts of members of the Grieving Parent Support Network. Sign up to find out about any future anthology projects.