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The Second Year Should Be Easier….Right?

The Second Year Should Be Easier….Right? | After the Heartbreak
The Second Year Should Be Easier….Right?
Me sitting in my pool with wine

Last night I held a Pity Party. It was a Saturday evening and the weather was deliciously warm and balmy. As the sun went down I turned on the fairy lights on the patio. It looked so beautiful and inviting outside that I had the brilliant idea to pour myself a glass of wine, put on some low-key Jazz music and sit in the pool and watch the stars come out. Sounds lovely? It was…until…..

…my mind suddenly rocketed back to a similar evening when my husband Norbert was alive. The twinkling stars, romantic music and wine were the same except that back then I shared the experience with the man I loved more than anyone in the world. The man who died in a glider crash.

Read: The Day My Heart Broke

The tears sprang up suddenly and I found myself sobbing my heart out and missing him so badly it was a physical pain that clamped an iron claw around my middle. I put the glass of wine down before I spilled it and just let myself succumb to what I realised was going to be a Pity Pool Party for One. After crying myself out I washed off the tears (I was still in the pool) and knocked back the last of the wine like I was dying of thirst.

Me sitting alone

But why was this happening? I am now 17.5 months into widowhood which means I’m well into the second year. Definitely past those first few months which were a surrealistic nightmare with so much to organise, so much detail to think about…like remembering to eat.

That whole first year was really hard as would be expected, because every birthday, anniversary or festivity brought back poignant memories of when we were a couple. They were like hurdles to overcome. I knew when they were coming and I’d brace myself for the impact by planning ahead for how I was going to cope.

Friends and family rallied around, acknowledging each special day with phone calls, texts, Facebook messages and invitations. Each time the day I’d been dreading became yesterday, I thought..”I did it! I’m strong. I can do this.”

But now I’m well into my second year of widowhood and I expected (like most people) that ‘the worst would be over’. Whenever a birthday or festive or other event comes up I can now say “I’ve done that before so it’s nothing new.” I’ve spent more than a year coping alone and learning to be a single person.

After doing some research I’ve discovered that this is apparently the problem. The second year can be almost as hard as the first…except this time, you don’t have as much support because your smiles and seeming ability to manage your life sends a message that you’re ‘on the mend’…..things are better…’re ‘moving on’.

“The first year, I gave myself an imaginary gold star every time I managed to survive another terrible event or day or emotional state….But I don’t get a damn gold star for merely continuing to live my life now. What’s new about year two is this: the reality I face is not new. It is the rest of my life.”

D.C. Widow

“If Year One of widowhood is a struggle for survival, Year Two is the equally difficult struggle to begin living life again. It is hard. Our spouses just keep being dead.”

Lisa Kolb

I am lucky as I still have friends who give me a hug. Hugs are incredibly important to someone who lost the person who was their ‘hugger’. It is a fact of life though that most people have moved on in their own lives and 17 months probably seems a long time for them. Because I look like I’m healing from the traumatic experience, I don’t get as many hugs anymore.

I also don’t get very many people checking in on me to see how I’m going. That was in the first year but now apparently I should be fine. Mostly, I am. But every now and then the silliest thing will start up the tears, and then I’m not so fine.

For those of you who are supporting someone who has lost their partner, just a word of advice not to ‘forget’ them just because a year has gone by. Your caring and contact is just as important now, and perhaps even more so now that the majority of supporters have fallen by the wayside. They won’t need meals anymore but keep talking about their loved one, and keep giving those hugs.

Me on beach

The one-year anniversary of a spouse’s death is not a benchmark for being healed. It’s merely the day after day 364, followed by 366, 367 and so on. For widows, anticipating relief upon the one-year mark is to be lulled, then hoodwinked, by a false target that implies to others, and even us, that we must be out of the woods, and thus less in need of continued support.

Lisa Kolb

The journey I’ve been on has been hard work and very complicated as my emotions and ability to get on with life waxes and wanes like the moon. I’ve always known that this was going to be a long haul as if you can get over a relationship in 12 months then it probably means that it wasn’t a very deep relationship.

I know this will be a life-time journey and sometimes the enormity of the loss feels overwhelming, but it is the understanding of those around me who are willing to support me for the duration (and not just the first bit) that makes it survivable.


Last night was a little setback but I know I will have many setbacks and stumbles as I push forward into this life I have yet to understand. I am depending on the people around me to help me for every step because it is a rather lonely journey otherwise. There are rainbows out there though….I’m starting to see them.

It is important for people who are just beginning their grieving journey to know though….it DOES get better. The first day is the worst and if you compare all subsequent days to that one you will see that (apart from some hiccups) that it might be a long journey but it isn’t necessarily all uphill. One day you will look back at that Day 1 and think “Wow…I’ve done OK.”

Are there any other ‘second year+ survivors’ out there? How have things changed over time? Please drop a comment below.

Quote: Grief doesn't have a finish line

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

  • Lothar Ziemke says:

    Hi Marlene, in my letter to you instead of just a Sympathy Card I told you that there will be times later in your life that you will think of Norbert at the most unusual time….. A tear or two will flow down your cheek…. and I hope that you will have a friend nearby who will give you his or her hanky, as only a true friend will understand your feeling and pain, unfortunately whilst I used to drive for Greyhound, mine used to smell like DIESEL, and no one would have appreciated it.This feeling of the loss of a loved one…….Will it ever get any easier? Sorry to say no, Marlene, it is just that you learn to live with it. I know what it is to lose a loved one….. I think about my twins at the oddest of times.

    • Marlene says:

      Thanks for your comment Lothar. It’s funny how the oddest things can just throw up a memory and there you are…back where you began. But it does get easier to shake off the mood, smile, remember how much you still love them and then get back to the present. 🙂

  • Linda Richardson says:

    Grief never ends, I read somewhere that grief ends after 6 months …. what a load of rubbish, you miss and grieve for your loved one forever. I found if I embraced this I could cope much easier

    • Marlene says:

      Thanks for your comment Linda. I personally feel that I am frightened by the idea that grief might just suddenly ‘switch off’, as this would mean I no longer love my husband. Thankfully it’s rubbish as you go on loving (and grieving) forever…it just gets easier. 🙂

  • Michele says:

    I am not a widow, but your advice is good for any kind of grief. Thanks for writing your blog and having the courage to share it with us all.

    • Marlene says:

      Thanks for your comment Michele…and you’re right that grief is not necessarily about losing a loved one. It’s much bigger than that. Cheers, Marlene

  • Ron says:

    Hi Marlene.
    I don’t think the grief ever disappears, I think that as we live through it, our interaction with the grief evolves and changes as we do. If we dwell overly on self-blame or self-pity we can build our own path to depression without even seeing it happen. Self-harm in any of its myriad forms can often travel with us on this path.
    The old saying, “It’s Complicated” covers infinity as well as the human endeavour.
    Last September was the 20 year anniversary of my meeting my wife. I had already split from my past girlfriend, and had also met another lady as an acquaintance at that time. On the morning I took my now wife to the airport after a week of yacht racing on different boats, my ex girlfriend took her own life, in her separate bedroom in my house. I found her when I got back from the air-port.
    My path since that day has straddled self-harm, pity, blame, joy, love, pleasure and pain, but I am still here, and all of my past is incorporated in who I am now.
    Music is still the most potent trigger for me, and can still overwhelm me down to the scents at the time.
    Its complicated!

    • Marlene says:

      Hey Ron, it’s taken a little while to absorb what you have shared. I can only imagine that you experienced a surrealistic nightmare back then…and of course we know that grief keeps coming back in waves. The idea of ‘moving on’ is a nice little theory but doesn’t have a basis in real life as the memories and feelings stay with us forever. I think you’ve shown that you can learn to live with them though, and time does take an edge off it. Thank you for commenting here….much appreciated.

  • Brigitte says:

    May be, that you are happy, but suddenly a flashback and you cry at the same moment. I think that is thing, that will happened for the rest of the life. You cannot absolve the grief according to a plan. That is my experience after 4 years of death of my son.

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