Why Is the Grief from Child Loss Often Worse in Year Two?

When my baby boy was born still twenty-five years ago, the grief that I felt was impossible to explain to others.  There were days when I could not move from my bed.  Eventually, the grief seemed to soften a bit, and life felt “okay” for a time.

Then year two came along, and I was knocked flat with crippling grief, only this time it was much worse and I couldn’t figure out why I had this much grief hitting me so hard again.

Just recently my adult son Mike died very unexpectedly, and my heart was ripped apart.  Shattered.  Empty.  Lost.  Feeling so alone.  And, knowing what is ahead in this journey.

Many of us find ourselves grieving harder in year two than in year one, and initially it doesn’t make a bit of sense.  We know we’ve already cried millions of tears.  We understand the fact that our child is not with us and we must somehow find a way to re-enter life.  We understand all of this, and yet…….

Grief knocks us down and out all over again!

I’ve written about this new grief in great detail in my book Child Loss: the Heartbreak and the Hope  and I urge every parent, every sibling, every friend who is walking this path of child loss to get a copy of this book so that you can better understand more about the grief and pain of child loss.

Grief isn’t a one time event!  The grief from child loss lasts a lifetime and the more we understand just how grief works, the better we will be able to walk this journey of loss.

Please listen to this brief video as I talk from the very depths of my heart about why grief hurts even worse in year two.

 

It is my hope and my prayer that as we travel this journey of child loss together, we can understand more fully how grief affects us.  Sometimes we feel like we’re totally losing it.  Others may look at us questioning why we’re “living in the past” and not moving forward in our lives.

It’s so important to understand that quite often year two is worse than year one in our grief.

Why?  Why does grief return and kick us back down again?

Because it takes that long for the reality of our loss to fully register with us.  Our minds know that the loss of our child took place, but our heart is fighting the reality of the fact that our child is really and truly not with us on this earth anymore.  And, when that reality finally settles in, our grief returns with a vengeance.

Please remember that this returning grief does not last forever.  We will get through with the help, love, and support of those around us.

Ongoing support is vital to helping us survive this immense grief and pain! – Excerpt from Child Loss: The Heartbreak and the Hope. 

My God bless each and every parent and family struggling with the pain of child loss.  May we each be surrounded by family and friends who will hold us close and keep reminding us that they are right beside us walking this journey with us.

My love to all,

Clara

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Child Loss: the Heartbreak and the Hope

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30 Comments

  1. I too have lost a child at birth, my first daughter was stillborn 30 yrs ago, it took me 10yrs to finally accept her not being here. Two years ago I lost my adult son, and the pain right now is more than I can bear. Year 1 I was in limbo but year 2 is the worst ever. The pain is physical, the heartbreak feels real and the future looks impossible. How do I go on from here?

    1. Andrea, I’m so very, very sorry. Our lives sound so much alike in several ways.

      The only way we can go on with this kind of pain is one day at a time. I have found for me that I have an “okay” day, then I’m back to tears for two more days. I know this is “normal” and it won’t last forever, but….it seems like forever right now. I’m taking lots and lots of deep breaths, lots of “time outs” from life when things seem too overwhelming, and I’m very literally taking it one day, one step at a time. I think that will help you just a bit, too.

      When we think of the entire picture of life without our child forever it’s too big, too much. We have to chunk down our grief into hours. A phrase I’ve often used to help me is, “I can do anything for just one hour.”

      Blessings to you. I’m so very, very sorry.

      1. Its my daughter’s 2nd angelversary on 1/1/2016, Megan was 16 when she passed. I thought the ‘firsts’ were hard, I now realise that every birthday and angelversary will be the same, she has just had her 18th birthday, I can not describe how hard that was and still is……….your so right Clara……’I can do anything for just one hour.’ I am strugiling with the genuine pain in my chest, I also get regular palpatations? I think the are, my heart literally jumps? I have read many books on grief, I think my next book will be yours Clara.

        1. Joanne, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your special Megan. I wish that each of us could rise up above the grief quickly and integrate back into life in a happy, meaningful way, but……the truth is that this is a “journey” we’re on with so many bumps and curves along the way. And, grief is hard work — the hardest work we will ever do!

          Did you know that hospitals can now see on scans of the heart definite lines that indicate “heartbreak”? Grief has a very real impact on us, so the pain you are feeling just might be “grief attacks.”

          I’m not trying to push my book on anyone, but I honestly do believe it’s one of the best, most practical books out there on child loss. It has been in publication for over 15 years and still remains among the top ten books on child loss. I think you’d benefit greatly from the book. My special thoughts are with you. This thing called grief sure isn’t easy for any of us! But, I know that we will make it through. I cling to that hope and promise every day.

    2. I am truly sorry for your loss, for your pain Andrea. I too have lost an adult son ( my only child), he passed 8 years ago, this last September, the despair, the loneliness, the heartache is immeasurable, but I find when I am lost in my pain that if I write my feeling down it is somehow soothing to my soul. The other thing is, I do not think about going on, in terms of thinking of the future, I take each day as it comes & try to live my best on that day in honour of my son, that is my main motivation..
      I wish you strength in this journey of ours & I know from somewhere deep within the very core of you the love you & your son shared will rise up & help you through each day
      ️xx ️Rhonda

    3. Almost15 months ago my husband came home from work. We gave our 31 year old son the bottom half of our home, and he and my husband built his “Lair” together, giving hem all the amenities including a private entrance. The only thing lacking was a kitchen.
      About a year before my son was diagnosed with crohn’s disease, a debilitating illness, I have been fighting myself for many years. I had a very virulent case of this disease in which my son was Witness to copious amounts of debilitating side effects. My son was being treated medically very aggressively due to the nature of the seriousness the disease had that ravaged my body. He had been released from the hospital 5 days earlier. He was on different IV medications at home, as was I. My husband entered his room at 7:03 p.m. and found our child dead, from a massive heart attack most likely initiated from the immune suppressing medications Humera to name a few. My beautiful vibrant Son was sitting on his loveseat preparing his medications and fell forward and died. With his hands at his sides, it was referred to as “Sudden Death” . My husband, a retired sergeant from the Connecticut State Police was so completely inconsolable he could barely speak to the 911 operator. When he opened the door and screamed to me ” Carolyn, TJ is dead.” I thought I felt my heart stop. With our oldest son a State Trooper, and our son that died a firefighter, our house was converged upon why every first responder within a 20 mile radius it seemed. As I sat next to my son, his body cold as ice, I covered him with his favorite blanket and rested my head on his once strong shoulders and quietly whispered in his ear “go to the light”. I remember feeling numb, that this was just a bad dream. Until the funeral director arrived, and placed my once vibrant child’s lifeless body in a black bag. I remember asking that they please not zip it completely closed, so I could share with my son The Last Kiss I would be able to ever give him. And then he was carried out of my house by his fellow firemen which according to them, was tradition. When the time came for his wake, my husband and I greeted the nearly 1,000 friends and family that gathered, to share a story, leave some memorabilia in his casket, to poignantly say their final goodbyes. With the state police directing the traffic, and people parking nearly a mile away, waiting 2 hours in line, to offer their kind words. My husband and I we were humbled and given great comfort for the tremendous outpouring of love and support for my grieving family. The next morning, his casket was placed upon the top of the firetruck he once drove, whith the State police, and Norwich polce Motorcycle division in place, the procession started to te church, where another nearly 1000 friends and family greeted us. With the church service complete, his casket once again placed upon the firetruck, his nearly 2 mile procession began to his final resting place. He was placed next to my Best Friend of 33 years, who lost her 4 year battle with ovarian cancer. As the services came to an end, I knelt before my Son’s casket, placing my arms across the top, and sobbed. He was gone, really gone.
      In the year since, I faced a life threatening health crisis. I started losing weight, which initially was attributed to my Son’s death. After losing57 pounds, teetering at 93 pounds, they discovered I had Graves disease. Near death they removed my Thyroid. I am slowly recovering. They said this was directly related to the shock of the loss of my Son, and the tragic way we found him. My heart is still shattered and the holidays have Amplified my grief. It is such a fight everyday to find the will to go on.

      I have read your articles and listened to your video, I would like to offer you my sincere condolences for the losses you have suffered. The information that you provided was both informative and so very true. They were extremely relatable and I thank you for posting this information that allows grieving parents the opportunity understand what it is they are going through. May God’s Grace give you comfort and His strong arms give you strength. Wishing you a Blessed Merry Christmas and a warm Holiday Season❤ Carolyn Sumner

      1. Carolyn, I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your son. It sounds like he was loved and respected by so many family and friends. What a comfort that must be to you and your husband and the rest of your family! Thanks so much for sharing the story of your son’s journey to his final resting place. None of this is ever easy, and that’s putting it mildly, as you know all too well.

        The holidays always seem to stir up additional emotions. Even the emotions we thought we so safely tucked away are still there. The grief of losing a child never goes away. As we share together in places such as this blog, it helps us tremendously to know that we’re not alone. Others are traveling a similar path and it takes great courage to get up and face a new day.

        My prayers to you and your family as we near another Christmas without our child. It’s so hard. There will be moments when we feel like we can’t stand up, yet……somehow we gain the energy to continue on. I will always believe that we parents of child loss are the bravest souls that walk on face of this earth. Blessings to you for a peaceful Christmas. May beautiful memories of your son flood your soul. Sincerely, Clara

        1. Thank you Clara, for your beautiful, inspiring message. Your words were beautiful, although painful to
          share I am sure.
          Thank you Clara, for giving me a safe place to express my feelings. I wish you a warm and relaxing holiday season.❤🌲❤
          Season.
          -Carolyn M. Sumner❤🌲❤

    4. I just got done with 6 weeks of therapy and I never thought of it as TRAUMA. After 2years of being in the “fog”, heavily medicated I can see the light with the help from my group members and Councellor. I weaned off the meds and now can deal with the trauma I experienced after I lost my 15yo son to suicide. Thanks and God Bless.

      1. Deedee, Sometimes we don’t know what to call the pain we’re feeling because it’s so hard to describe. I’m so happy that you’ve found help to get you on a better path. Losing a child to suicide is one of the most difficult traumas one can ever experience. I’m so very, very sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. I too had a stillborn daughter 10 years ago. I got through the hard times for my babies. I had a 4 year old little boy and soon came twins. 2 months ago my oldest son was killed in a hunting accident. It’s was the most senseless, devastating and dreadful thing I have ever faced. I Keep telling myself to go on for the twins but I don’t want to. I don’t know how to get back to life and I don’t want to. I feel as if God has abandoned me and left me in a pool of grief and sorrow that I will never climb out of.

    1. Karla,
      I’m so, so sorry. There are times when life really doesn’t make sense. You’ve been through so much — please be sure that you have adequate support. That is so important! It’s hard to get back to life in a meaningful way when our hearts are breaking more and more each day. One thing that seems to be helping me is constantly talking about my losses to whoever will listen. I also journal some — not regularly — but it does help. And, it helps me to know that others have traveled this journey of loss and they have integrated back to life in time. That gives me hope. My prayers are with you, Karla. Just take one day, one hour at a time. Again, I’m so vey, very sorry. 🙁

  3. Thoughts & prayers, sorry for the loss of your sons Clara, & your daughter Andrea. My daughter passed away 8 years ago from Sudden Unexpected Death In Epilepsy (S.U.D.E.P) Hazel was 17 years old. I feels like it hasn’t got easier yet!! As too many reminders around. And too many stupid people. Lucky we have a few of her good friends who have been very supportive. Take care luv Julie xx <3

    1. Julie, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your daughter, Hazel. In our thinking, I cannot come up with a reasonable way to say, “It’s okay for a parent to bury their child”, yet we know all-too-well that child loss occurs every day. That still doesn’t make it easier when it’s our own child that we loved and adored with all of our heart.

      I’m so very glad you have a support system around you. I thank God for my friends and family members who support me, too. I rely on that encouragement so much!

      My thoughts and prayers are with you, and I thank you so much for your love and concern for me. That means more than you can imagine!

    2. My thoughts and prayers go out to each and everyone who is going through this! Julie my heart goes out to you for your loss. I lost my daughter Daysha at age 15 4 years ago from a sudden and severe asthma attack. My soul still feels in shock and my life still a mess….but even with all of this pain I feel blessed and honored to have been the mother of such an amazing daughter! My thoughts are with you as we continue this journey..

      1. I often think what a huge blessing it has been to me and everyone else who has lost a child that Clara began the Silent Grief FB page . It is not easy for any of us in any way BUT to be with people who are going through the same journey gives me a comfort as I know I can share on the page and others know exactly what I am talking about.

        1. Karen,
          Thank you so very, very much! We really are a family — at least that’s how I consider all of you.

  4. I totally agree with this second year grief, I wake up some days and wonder how do I go on. Its been 2 years 7 months and 1 day since we lost our sweet april, she had sinus infection surgery 2 days later she passed away, due to blood clots in lungs. We now raise our only grand daughter, which is six now, She is spitting image of her mommy, talks, acts…does everything everyday …just like her. She is GOD’s gift to us, but at same time, so very hard to do daily. How do I have the strength to get up daily get her to school, fight the battles with a 6 year old, …my husband and I are in our mid 50’s, ..GOD gave us this gift but so hard to follow thru some days, I look at her, and I feel I am talking to mommy again…raising her again…how many people have this chance to do it over again. But then I get so very tired, so overwhelmed, and question why…is my april gone, why do we loose our children, ..not suppose to bury our children….I pray for all of you going thru what I am going thru. Just have to keep remembering God gave me this job, its up to me to fulfill his will…to be strong, to keep going daily…I have to remind myself to be thankful…it can always be worse, no sweet grand daughter to see daily, to hold her and love on her, so many do not have that honor as I do…GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU.

    1. Connie, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your April. She sounds like such a special young lady! And, you’re so right — you know have been given the blessing of raising your granddaughter — a blessing that not everyone gets to have. The circumstances are not what you would have chosen, but the reality is that this has happened. You have a wonderful attitude of thankfulness. I know that God will grant you the energy — both physical and emotional — that you need to raise your granddaughter. May God continue to bless you with peace, love, and energy!

  5. I lost my 30 year old son suddenly in January 2014 so I am coming up on that second year; I can’t imagine that things van get worse. He was my only child. I already suffer from depression and anxiety and after loosing my son I just want to stay in the bed and sleep I actually am sad to wake up. I have photos of him around the house but I can barely look at them. When I see parents out with their adult “childten” my heart aches.

    1. Kim, I’m so very sorry to hear of the loss of your only son. The grief we experience in year two is a different kind of grief — it’s the grief that acknowledges what has happened in a different way and is so necessary for us to continue on. After this storm, our grief seems to level out and eventually you will have more “better days” than “worse days.”

      I hope that you are working with either your doctor or counselor about the depression because that can add an extra layer of sadness to us that is so very hard to work through. Be sure to force yourself to get up and out of bed and to get dressed. If at all possible, take a brief walk — even 5 minutes will help. I still work a full-time job and I’m glad because that makes me get up on those days when I’d much rather stay in bed. Grief and depression are like battles we’re fighting — daily battles. What encourages me most is knowing others who have walked this journey of loss and have finally found a place of peace.
      My sincere prayers are with you as you continue to travel this journey of grief. Another thought I just had — sometimes I set the timer and allow myself only one half hour a day of deep grieving. Then, I work hard to think of only positive things. Believe me, it’s hard to do, but it really does help. My love to you. I pray that as the days go on, you will chunk down time into hours if you have to. One hour at a time — we can each do one hour of living at a time. God bless you with peace today.

    2. Kim……I lost my only child in April 2010; he was 28. The first year was horrible, marked by a numbness. But, yes, year 2 was worse. There is an expectation by society that you’ve had a year to grieve and now you can move on. We, who have lost children, know you don’t move on. You don’t get over it. At best you move forward. And you learn to live with the pain. The emphasis is on living. There will always be pain; there will always be a void in your heart and there will always be triggers. I am so sorry for your pain and hope that, through your tears, you will eventually find laughter and joy along with the heartache.

  6. Just begun our 2nd year. My heart is heaving when I look at Daniel’s photos. Christmas is coming and we are dreading it. For us there is no family to be with on that day so my dear husband and I will take sandwiches and go to where our darling son is resting and spend time beside him.

    1. Karen, It makes it especially difficult when we don’t have nearby family around the holidays and special anniversary dates. I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your Daniel. I think it’s a wonderful idea to spend the day at Daniel’s resting place — a time of reflection, sharing stories about Daniel, and remembering special times. Yes, it will be very painful, but there will also be healing. My special prayers are with you.

  7. I am 9 years this sunday TYson was 33 yrs married and a 2 year old boy.I will never get over it this year i started in october going down with depression and it gets worse every year I have no family left now just 3 grandsons i never really see and a daughter that doesn,t speak to me .so nothing left so another xmas by myself.life is so sad

    1. Joan, I’m so very sorry to hear this. I don’t know why family bails out on us when we need them the most. It boggles my mind. But, it happens quite often — where children don’t speak to their parents or where members in a family don’t stay connected. It is very sad.

      That being said, I wonder if there is any desire on your part to do something like visit your local hospital and become what is known as a “hugger”? Many, many hospitals have this program where they allow people to come in and sit with babies and young children who need to be held (and where it’s impossible for mom or dad to stay with them) to just hold and rock them. Or maybe you would have an interest in visiting those in a nursing home who get no visitors. It’s something I think about often. If ever I find myself all alone, I would want to help someone else who is alone. I know we have to be in a strong enough place emotionally, and it sounds like depression might be weighing you down right now. I hope you’ll get some help for your depression and perhaps think about the two things I suggested. YOU could become a special someone to a person who really needs you.

      My love to you. I hope and pray that you’ll get some help to get your through the depression. That’s not a good place to be. I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your Tyson. Love to you, Clara

  8. I started this earlier and my phone went dead so I’m starting it again. I feel my son, Alan has died three times. The day he died left me in shock, then in six or seven weeks my daughter came over and told me Ålans heart had just given out. That was when I felt it was really true but I still wasn’t satisfied, I told my husband I needed to go get s copy of his death certificate, I had to see for myself before I would be able to accept the cause of death. When I read it his heart had stopped because he had 8different drugs in his system I know my daughter told me this trying to protect me. They wouldn’t let me go in the house he was living in because of the smoke, I’m on oxygen, they had completely destroyed the inside of my house, holes in every wall and ceiling burns all over the carpets water had leaked into the hall way into the hall and the floor was rotten most of the window screens were missing and garbage was piled so high on the back porch you couldn’t even open the back door. We had to evicted his son, daughter and ex wife who he let her live there so she wouldn’t be homeless. We had to have his middle Doctor court ordered into rehab and she had great, she’s out now and living near her oldest sister and so far has stayed clean. The only problem is she has let her mother move in with her after she was released from prison, she was the one providing the drugs. I really feel I’ve been to hell and back
    This will be the first Christmas Charles and I have been alone we always had Alan and at least One of his children here. My granddaughter had to work and my daughter and her husband have plans. I really don’t know how I’ll manage. I hope I can just stay in bed and be by self. I was invited out with my friends but that fell through. My daughter wanted to know if I wanted her to put up I tree but I said not this year. i did manage to send out some cards after my husbsnd kept after me crying the whole time. He finally told me to quite but my stubborn streak took over and I finished them, then I didn’t speak to him the rest of the evening. I don’t remember what happened last night but I started crying and he told me I had to get over it. I don’t know how to handle it. He won’t talk to me about it. I feel so alone. I do see a doctor and have for quite awhile but the medicine makes me feel like I’m in a for. Please give me some ideas on how to handle this. I blame my self and my husband blames our daughter so our home is not a very Pleasent right now and I’m afraid it never will be again. Alan was 57!when he passed. I still check caller ID to see if it’s him. Sending hugs love and prayer.

    1. Barbara, I’m so very sorry. It sounds like you have layers and layers of grief issues to work through and that’s not easy to do! It takes lots of time, lots of patience, and slowly walking through each grief and trying to sort out your emotions.

      Please stop self-blaming. Even when drugs are involved, a person still has a “choice.” I hope that doesn’t sound harsh, but our children — especially our adult children — are aware that there is a lot of help available for those who use drugs. Probably your son was using one drug, then needed more to help him get the feeling he desired. This is in no way your fault. I hope you’ll educate yourself more on the way drugs change a person. I’m so very sorry that your son fell into the dangerous trap of drugs. Our nation needs so much help in this area!

      The very beginning step for you and your husband is to stop blaming. I hope that you two can reach an agreement to grieve without blaming. It’s human nature to try to place blame on another for the death of our child, but in the end it does no good. Drug addiction is powerful and unless your son made the decision to get help, he was in a very difficult situation.

      Have you considered counseling rather than just medication? I’m sure that counseling (both group and individual) would be of great help to you.

      I’m so very sorry for all you’ve been through. My many thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you so much for your comments.

  9. Cig you could PM it would be nice because then my husbsnd could end read it. I don’t think he will be too happy that I contacted you. P M Barbara Justice Enlow.