It's a common perception that the first year after a loved one dies is the hardest.
Let me straighten you out. It's not true.
A widow friend let me in on a secret last March: year two is harder. At the beginning of my second year without Mat on this planet, I was horrified by the idea that the coming year could be worse than the previous one. But she was right.
It's true that the first year is one of, well, firsts: the first Father's Day without dad, the first wedding anniversary without my husband, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas. (It's enough to make you wonder why there are so many damn holidays and special events.) And Valentine's Day ... well, the days leading up to that were their own special kind of torture. The store decorations, the candy, the local public radio station's fundraiser (long-stemmed roses for your sweetheart) all seemed designed to rub my face in Mat's passing.
But there was also an outpouring of support and love from all corners. There were cards and condolences (sometimes emotionally difficult to receive but also much needed), flowers, food, invitations to dinner, small acts of kindness and generosity, and plenty of slack.
Oddly, there was also energy and a sense of possibility. Not knowing what I was in for, I gave myself a pep talk: "I can survive this! I can help the kids survive this! We will be OK!" Knowing I had God on my side, I expected Him to open possibilities for me that I couldn't have imagined for myself. Thus pepped, I poured myself into trying to solve the knots that repeatedly came up during the year.
By March 2012 I was tired. I had tried literally dozens of different ways to make life function more smoothly and more happily for me and the boys, and felt I had largely failed. God's help was too subtle for my taste. (The recovered diamond was a notable exception.) Friends and family were still kind but mostly back to their usual concerns and routines. And some people lost patience with me: Why was I still struggling? It had been a year -- I was over it, right? The worst was behind me.
And then the permanence of Mat's death and what that meant sank in.
Last year sucked.
But in the last two weeks, I have felt ... hopeful. For the first time since Mat died, I have had a feeling -- more than once even -- that there's a possibility that life will someday be good again. With 13 days until the end of year two, I think it's a sign. Year three will be better.