They say the second year is harder than the first. In the first year you have to go through all the firsts. The first Christmas, first anniversary, the first birthdays. For the first time, you have to “celebrate” the first of every occasion that you will live without them. These firsts are a big deal and they weigh very heavily on the ones who are left here to grieve. It is so hard to get through those moments that are supposed to be happy and hopeful. But as hard as those specific days are, what is even harder is watching the “everyday” pile up, one after another after another. The firsts are so hard, because it feels like the rest of the world gets to celebrate the fact that they have what you are supposed to have, while you are left with emptiness.

I am in my second year. In my first year, I heard that the second year was harder. I will be honest, hearing that made me want to die. I couldn’t bear the idea that it only gets worse when what I was already feeling was too much to bear. I was left with the feeling that this was my life now. The unbearable pain, the stones in my chest. I had this dreadful fear that happiness was behind me and all I had left was pain and despair. It was suffocating. There were times when I couldn’t breathe. I was told a hundred different times in a hundred different ways to look forward and leave the past in the past. I’m sure these words were been pretty easy to say but they were irrelevant to my life, because overtime I looked forward, it would suffocate me.

The second year is different. In the first year it is hard to wrap your head around deep loss. The first year is foggy and much of it is spent almost in a daze. But what happens is that eventually the reality sinks in. It takes a lot longer than you would expect it to. For me, it was around 10-11 months after losing my husband. For me it sank in around the holidays. It was this sudden full body “realization” that he was gone forever. That he was never coming back. That the last words I would ever hear from him had already been spoken. That there will never be another memory to make with him. There will never again be another new moment with him. I think I spent a month on my knees, my body felt so heavy it was as if I were filled with stones. For me, it was the moment that it sunk in that was the hardest and most painful.

The second year has been a different type of hard. The first year is when you go through your firsts, but the second year is when you start to learn how to live this new life. For grievers, time becomes quite simple. There is the before and after. The old life and the new life. The second year of the new life is hard, there is no doubt about that. But the pain no longer flows through your body the way it used to. Yes, there is pain. I believe I will always yearn for my husband and it will always hurt to know that he should be here, but he’s not. But the pain used to flow through my veins like blood. Every waking moment hurt, even when I tried to be happy and “normal”. The pain is no longer in my veins. I have replaced the pain with gratitude. I am grateful every second of every day for the time that I had with him, and for his daughter. With every breath I take I am grateful that he is a part of my life. I am better for having known him. The pain in the second year is different. There is no more wishing, no more what if’s, no more hoping that any moment now I will wake up from this terrible dream. It hurts beyond belief when that sinks in. When you realize this is not a dream and you won’t wake up… this is your life now. When that sinks in the pain will bring you to your knees. But then eventually you will stand up and start walking. Walking towards whatever may come in this new life.

Gratitude is what propels me forward. Gratitude is how I keep moving forward. Gratitude is how I look my daughter in the eyes every single day and thank God that she is just like her daddy. Gratitude is really all I have right now, and it keeps me going. What keeps you going?