This past year I lost a younger cousin, an aunt and a man who was like a grandfather to me. I think about their families often as they are beginning to experience the year of firsts. I know how painful that journey is and that it is a year you have to walk through whether you are ready or not. There will be birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that they will now have to face without their loved one for the first time. This makes previously joyous occasions something that can be dreaded because now they are filled with grieve and extra sadness. It’s yet another reminder that they are not here. Any time that you loose someone you love, it is hard, but the year of firsts is especially hard.
For those closest to the one who died, the pain lasts long after the funeral, when it feels like everyone else has moved on with their life. My mom’s birthday and Thanksgiving were in the same month that my mom died. My family and my dad ended up going away for Thanksgiving weekend that first year because it was too hard to stay home. We needed to try to experience something fun for my son, who was a toddler at the time. We needed a sense of hope in the sadness. It was hard to get into decorating for Christmas that year too. Over the years I have decorated more for Christmas using some of her favorite decorations that she would place out each year. I have special picture ornaments on our Christmas tree to honor her memory along with my brother’s. Mother’s Day is another painful reminder of her absence. On that day, I observe all of the images on social media with daughters and sons celebrating their moms. It’s still a reminder of that stinging void. There are so many moments that I wish she could have been here for… including meeting her other grandson.
So how do you get through the year of firsts?
The answer is that it’s different for everyone.
You will have moments of sadness that will hit you at odd times, like while you are shopping or making dinner or when you hear a song that brings back a memory.
Crying is ok and good. It’s also a necessary part of the process. I tend to cry when I’m alone. Sometimes you just need that release.
Sharing stories and memories is therapeutic during these times. People who also cared for your loved one can be life giving during this time because they understand your pain.
The only way I got through this tough time was because of my faith and the hope that I will see my loved ones again. That doesn’t mean that I understand the why, because I don’t.
The death of a loved one is something that you never get over. You just find new ways to live.