The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief

The challenges we face during the first year after the death of a life mate/soul mate (or any other significant person), are too great to enumerate. It’s all we can do to cope with the seemingly endless chores of laying our beloved to rest while dealing with the emotional shock, the physical pain, the psychological affront. Sometimes the first anniversary of his death is one of peace when we realize that we managed to survive the worst year of our life, but then we wake up to the second year and find a whole other set of challenges to meet.

These seem to be the five major challenges to face during the second year of grief:

1. Trying to understand where he went. We can understand that he is out of our lives (even though we don’t like it), but we cannot understand his total goneness from this earth. No matter what we do, how we feel, or what we believe, it doesn’t change the fact that he is dead. And there is nothing we can do about it.

2. Living without him — we can do it, we’ve proved that during the past months, but we still have a problem figuring out why we would want to.

3. Dealing with continued grief bursts. Though we do okay most of the time, and though we fulfill our daily responsibilities quite capably, upsurges of grief still hit us, sometimes right on schedule (such as my sadder Saturdays), and sometimes for no reason at all. Sometimes they last for days (such as the upsurge of grief most of us felt this New Year’s Eve) and sometimes they last for mere minutes. But always, just when we think we can handle it, grief returns and we feel as if he just died.

4. Finding something to look forward to rather than simply existing. The second years seems to be a limbo, a time of waiting though we don’t seem to be waiting for anything. We’re just . . . waiting.

5. Handling the yearning. So many people who try to explain grief get it wrong. It’s not about going through five or seven or ten stages of grief. It’s about yearning for one more smile, one more word, one more hug from the person who was everything to us. The first year of yearning was hard, but somehow many of us had the strange idea that this was some sort of test and that after we passed the test, he’d pop back into our lives and we’d go on as before. Well, now we know this is no test. It’s the real thing. And there is nothing protecting us from that great clawing yearning.

Making a list is easy. Meeting the challenges of the second year of grief is hard, but maybe we succeed simply by living, by dealing with each day as it comes.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.


96 Responses to “The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief”

  1. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    Pretty well sums it up…there are other challenges of course, some unique to each person, some we share…bottom line is year 2 is very difficult in a different way than year 1…I can’t even think about year 3.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I was filling in my new calendar with dates, such as when taxes and insurance payments are due, and I noticed that last year I marked the year-and-a-half anniversary. I was going to mark the two-and-a-half-year anniversary on this years calendar, but I couldn’t do it. It just seemed incomprehensible, and I got that stepping-off-the-curb-into-nothingness feeling. For some reason, just the thought of that date made his death seem even more permanent. LIke you, I can’t even think about the third year.

  2. Holly Bonville Says:

    And don’t forget the nights…the dreams, the sleeplessness, all of which make they days even more challenging. Sometimes it is a challenge just to make it thru the day. I wonder where all my energy went and if I will get any of it back.

  3. Elaine Garverick Says:

    I quit smoking cigarettes almost nine years ago. It wasn’t easy, and even now I feel a strong urge every so often. I have made up my mind that I will never be free of a thing that so consumed my energy, my time, and my health. How much worse it is when the thing we must do without is a human being we have we have loved, trusted, and maybe idolized. I speak for myself. Giving up (to me) means surrendering all hope of any tomorrow that includes the beloved. I will not do that. I can not do that. But I can learn to live in the “now” with as much grace, courage, and love for myself and others as possible. I deserve this much. Thanks, Pat, for helping me to see what I have left, not what I may have lost. Elaine

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Some people (who have not lost a mate to death) have compared this loss and yearning as being similar to an alcoholic giving up alcohol, and I suppose in some ways it is the same, but as you say, you can’t just push the loved one out of your head.

  4. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    When the alcoholic who gives up alcohol loses the love of his/her life…we shall see if they say it is the same, similar, has any resemblance whatsoever. Can not compare losses.

    • Elaine Garverick Says:

      I meant to use my addiction to cigarettes as a metaphor to overcoming loss. Of course alcohol or cigarettes do not compare to the loss of a beloved individual. I thought I made that clear in my comment. I’m very sorry if you took offense at my remarks.

      • Pat Bertram Says:

        Elaine, she was responding to my remark, not yours. She would never be so unkind as to make you feel bad for having commented. You did make your point clear that as hard as giving up cigarettes was, it doesn’t compare to losing a loved one. We all have losses and crosses to bear. I appreciate your comments and your support during this difficult time.

  5. Mary Friedel-Hunt Says:

    Elaine, I WAS referring to Pat’s alcohol statement. I thank you for writing and apologizing, however. Pat is right, I would never want to make anyone feel sad or bad. I was also making a bigger statement about how so many compare the loss of a beloved to another loss of any kind…most in ignorance having never really lost a beloved….it is our culture…and it gets so old. No problem, Elaine and thanks so much. And to you also, Pat, for jumping in with your statement of clarity and support.

  6. Annette Says:

    I am just starting the 2nd year of grief. The first year is such a blur right now. I feel like I will never get through this. Mondays are the worst days for me. I miss his hugs and kisses and crazy sense of humor. But this blog lets me know I am not alone. How can anyone get through this despair? It is so consuming. My life has changed forever. I cannot look to the future with any hope. I just get through each day. The anxiety is horrible. I don’t know how anyone can get through this but they do. So I am putting one foot in front of the other. That is the best I can do for now.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Annette, that’s all can we do, put one foot in front of the other, and somehow the days pass. I don’t know how any of us get through this, either, and I don’t know if we ever completely do. Apparently the despair does lessen, but the yearning to see him once more is still claws at me.

    • janice harnack Says:

      That is all anyone can do- the first months are excruciating to get through. But you just force yourself to go on. After 6 months into this journey, I can even laugh without feeling guilty about those fleeting moments of happiness. I also work at the hospital where my husband died. I thank God every shift I work, that I am one day closer to retirement. My life and my world are forever changed. This is my second husband who has died- my children have lost two fathers. Their biological father passed away 6 and a half years ago. Their stepfather died august 18,2013. This has been a very long winter in Ontario, Canada. I want to see my tulips and crocuses bloom- new life- renewed energy. I am not the same person anymore- I am still waiting to see who I will be as I continue on this grief journey – sometimes I feel very alone- even though I am surrounded by so many friends and family.

      • Pat Bertram Says:

        That’s one of the many difficult things we have to face on this journey — the feelings of isolation. It must be doubly hard to have gone through this pain twice. I am so sorry.

  7. Juliana Says:

    This is very helpful in understanding why it’s been a year and I feel like I’m getting worse. My brain tells me that my husband is gone, but my heart tells me I want to be with him. Thanks for the insight.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      For many of us, the second year was harder than the first. We were so concentrated on getting through that first year, then when the second year started and we realized he was truly going to be gone for the rest of our lives, it brought on a whole new level of grief. I’m coming up on my third anniversary, and it’s still hard to understand. Wishing you peace during the coming year.

  8. Exiene Says:

    It is a relief and the biggest pain to read here, and other places that the 2nd year is, in some ways, worse, I lost my husband to cancer in Nov of 2011 and sure enough, people think I should be over it and I’m a bit of a mess. I sometimes don’t care if I wake up, but am surprisingly too strong to end my life (I say that because if I do have a thought of ending my life I am repulsed by the options of how to do it.) So, I have to live with the pain, but darned if it’s not the hardest thing. It’s lonely, but I really don’t want to have another in my life until I know who I am again. I thank you for the information that explains everything I’m feeling but can’t explain to others who don’t know.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’ve been talking to another woman here on this blog who lost her husband on October 31 of 2011. Maybe you will find a bit of comfort in knowing that others in your “grief age group” feel the same. You can find our conversations here: and here:

      This is an especially difficult time for the very reasons you enumerated. Just when you’re having to deal with re-grief — the realization that this is forever and its accompanying upsurges of raw grief — others figure you should be over it, so you get no support. Those of us who have been there know the truth. That sometimes the second year is harder. Also, you are around your eighteen month anniversary, and for some reason, the grief at that time is as bad as it was in the beginning.

      And yes, many of us do entertain the thought of ending it all (it’s natural until you get to the point of stockpiling pills or sharpening knives), but like you, we are all too strong to do so. It is surprising to find such strength when we are at what feels to be our weakest and most vulnerable time.

      I have been told that this process takes about three to five years but most often four years. Around that time, we find that life becomes new again. I still have a year to go to reach my fourth anniversary, but I hold on to that thought. I find it comforting to know that others have gone through the process and found renewal on the other side. (Though we never do completely get over our grief. It just becomes a part of who we are.)

      I’m sorry we’ve both had to go through this, but I’m glad I’m far enough ahead of you to be able to put into words what you are feeling. It helps both of us.

      • Sue Bedoyan Says:

        Like you am in my fourth year, l loath this “life” and cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel, but as someone told me little steps. I want to feel joy again, I find nothing in which to be happy.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          It’s now six and a half years for me. I can see some light, have days where I can be happy, but I still miss him. Always will. The fourth year was still hard for me. I don’t know what it takes to find some happiness again. For me, it was taking dance classes. It helped me focus on something new. But yes, the loss is so difficult and the grief lasts longer than anyone can ever imagine.

          • Lorraine Murray Says:

            It has been 15 months for me, and his clothes are still in the closet, a silent testimony to my impossible hope that he might return. Some days I think, “Oh, I’m feeling better,” and then something will trigger a wave of grief, and tears just flow. I know he would want me to be happy and to have dreams for the future, but it’s hard to envision a future without him. I am constantly tired, and it’s so hard to explain this to people. He shows up in my dreams, looking happy and healthy — and he’s surprised when I tell him what happened — how he went on a walk and had a heart attack and died instantly.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            It took me more than five years before it sunk in that I would never be going home to him. (After he died, I went to another state to take care of my dad.) Somewhere on the back of my mind, jeff was waiting for me. I’ve come to see that grief is a quantum state, where the loved one is simultaneously alive and dead. It’s no wonder grief is so exhausting. It’s also stressful, one of the most stressful situations ever. So on with all the yearning to see him, the bewilderment of having to create a life without him, we have to deal with stress,insomnia, exhaustion. It is impossible to explain to people what is happening.

            I am so sorry you are having to go through this. Wishing you peace.

    • Sue Bedoyan Says:

      Have read your post, three years for me, no joy, not fussed about seeing anyone, do hope things are easier for you now. X

  9. Barbara Says:

    Today is the 2nd anniversary, and I feel like I just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head I guess I should feel proud or relieved that I made it through two years without going completely nuts, but all I know is that I feel empty, scared, and lonely. I’ve stepped out a little, made some new friends, and I’m starting grad school (today of all days!). But just when I feel like I have it all together the memories start and the pain hits, and I feel like a little kid.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, feeling empty, scared, and lonely are big problems, though now that I am at almost four years, I don’t feel them quite as much. Doing new things is about the only way to continue on with life despite the pain. Yes, you should be proud and relieved you made it through two such horrendous years, but it doesn’t help, does it? He’s still gone. That’s the thing that I can never quite fathom — that no matter what I do, I can’t change that.

      I am so sorry you have to go through this, sorry any of us do.

      Wishing you peace as you navigate your third year.

  10. Jennie Saps Says:

    Oh I am glad I found this site. Of course I, too, thought ‘I just have to get through this first year and ……’ And what I don’t know. What did I expect? This 2nd year has been very tough. As everyone says, the support falls away because we are supposed to be ok now. And because life goes on for most folks. They’ve done their bit. And I guess, they might shy away from the truth if they knew it. It’s the longing…’s the sheer blessed exhaustion of keeping on going, pulling up the bootstraps and putting on the armour every day. Yuk! When does it all end, I ask myself. And the answer is best not considered. And the thing is, I still love my best friend, absolutely adore him….. But now I know 100% that he ain’t ever coming back. The reality of that is just ……well, I don’t have to say.
    Thanks for providing a space where I can air my thoughts and now that others out there totally understand what I’m trying to say.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The second year really is tough. We got through that first year minute by minute, hanging on by our fingernails, only to discover the reality — there is no end. He will always be gone.

      Even after four years, I still feel the exhaustion of trying to be present in life rather than looking back. Still pulling up my bootstraps. Still trying to accept that no matter how much I want to talk to him one more time, he isn’t coming back.

      When people used to say they couldn’t imagine what I was going through, I’d tell them there was no way they could imagine it. I still can’t imagine it, and I’ve gone through the worst of it. At least, I think I have.

      And yes, you’re right — it’s best not to consider how long it will last, though it does get better, I promise you. Until then, when you get tired of carrying your armor by yourself, stop by here and air your thoughts. We understand.

      Wishing you peace.

  11. Sadia Says:

    Hi Pat, my father died in July 2011, then my husband died in August 2012, I was going to get a divorce, as things were not working out, but I loved him still n miss him so much. I was blamed for his death by others and my own inner voice, though it was a heart attack. I suffer from depression, which became worse after one year. I have two children, a 10 and 13 year old, my son at the time of his fathers death was 11 and he went into mental depression as well. I had to move back from Canada to my country of origin Pakistan, as I needed family, and was alone in Canada. Pakistan is not easy to adjust too, the life m security here r awful, but the family support is good. Anyway, people often tell me to stop being a victim, to do this, to do that … Only my widowed mother understands that I am still grieving and trying lil by lil everyday. Pat am I being a victim to get sympathy or is it ok to feel so lost and down still…?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Of course it’s okay to grieve. It doesn’t matter that you were getting a divorce. That just gives you more reason to because you never got what you wanted from him and now you never will. And since you are also grieving for your father, it is twice as hard. Grief is important. It’s how we process our losses. Don’t let anyone take that from you.

      • Sadia Says:

        Thank u … Its not easy when your son also says that isnt this what u wanted… It was a tough tough marriage but we still loved each other, n it was hard to get out after 15 years, and then 2 days before our separtation, he died, it was like the carpet got pulled under my feet. I m very God conscious n felt maybe I was being punished.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I can assure you, you are not being punished. Things just happen. As for your grief, it will get better. It takes three to five years after a major loss to find a renewal. Be patient with yourself and with your son. He probably hates to see you grieve.

          • Maryann Says:

            I totally understand…my husband took his life after a 8 year battle with addiction and bipolar disorder. His addiction/rehab/bizarre behavior were challenging but we stuck it out and I walked him through rehab, AA, counseling, med changes, hospitalizations. Yes it was exhausting but we were working together. We have 5 children (one of which is still in elementary school) and our first grandson was born in April. I’ve been single handedly running our 28 year old company with its 45 employees this past year. After the one year anniversary mark I am falling apart. I’m so exhausted and mentally depleted. I’m trying to sell our business because I don’t think I can run it anymore. I feel like I hit a brick wall! I don’t feel like super woman anymore and I don’t even want to be. Thanks for letting me vent.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Of course you’re falling apart. You’re doing the work of two people, have all the stress of running a family and a business plus the stress of grief. Any one of those would be hard, but all three? I don’t know how you managed to last a year, especially considering the stresses of the previous eight years. And I bet you haven’t been able to take the time to grieve. I hope you have someone to talk to. If not, stop by and vent any time. I can’t even imagine what you are going through, but I am a sympathetic ear.

          • maryannrose Says:

            Thanks… Not the life I expected … We both grew up in church together, we were good kids, hard workers and successful business and family. Then my husband got addicted to pain killers after surgery and the downward spiral started….didn’t recognize it at first but by the time we realized it was a problem … It’s all a blur from his first trip to detox when our youngest just turned 3 ( we adopted her when she was 6 months old..we were a “certified” good family). Part of my grief is just trying to figure out what went so terribly wrong…I started going to back counseling in July. Thanks again for listening! I miss my 10 year ago husband…I kept seeing periods of him but he finally gave up because he hated putting our family through the pain over and over again. I would have given my life for him to get better but he thought taking his life would make our lives better….

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            One of the problems with grief is that you don’t just grieve the person he was at the end, you also grieve the person you grew up with, the person you fell in love with, the person you exchanged vows with, the person he was at your happiest, the person he was when he realized what had happened to him, the person he was he tried the hardest to undo his inadvertant addiction, the husband, the father, the businessman. All those men are gone, too, which makes grief a full-time job — there is so much to mourn, to be angry over, to regret. Grief for someone who died after being ill is hard enough to deal with, but your situation is heartbreaking. I’m glad you’re going to counseling. I don’t know if you will ever figure out what went so terribly wrong — the more you look, the more you will see all the interconnecting paths that led to the end, but I hope you will find peace in the search. He sounds like a good man who did the only thing he could, but it still leaves you with so many unanswered questions and way too much pain. (Incidentally, “not the life I expected” seems to be the refrain of grief. I’m not making light of your feelings — I just wanted you to know that in addition to everything else we bereft feel, most of us feel outraged and shocked that life turned so terribly bad.) Try not to be too strong — cry, scream, punch a pillow, whatever it takes to let out some of that back-breaking stress you’re under.

  12. amy Says:

    We lost our 19 year old son 7 months ago. He was my whole life, a gift from God, and a blessing. I cry uncontrollably most afternoons after I get out of work. I can’t function, I can’t love, and worst of all I can’t be a mother to my other 25 year old child.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Oh, I am so very sorry about your son. From what I have heard, the loss of a child is the worst grief there is, so I can’t even imagine what you are going through. I do know it takes time — sometimes several years — to find a renewal after such a profound grief. Notice that I didn’t say “it takes time to get over grief”? That’s because you never do get over grief, but the pain does lessen, I promise, and you will eventually find your way back to happiness. Be kind to yourself. Don’t get upset with yourself for your grief. At seven months, grief is still very new.

      I’m here if you need a place to talk about your pain or your son or whatever.

      Wishing you peace.

  13. Linda Christle Says:

    I have read your book, The Great Yearning as it was the only one that spoke to me and now I am reading your blog. My Husband passed April 8, 2014 after 17year battle with CML (lukemia) a battle which we walked hand and hand together. He was in 6 clinical trials the first was, the Gleevec Trail under Dr. Brian Druker at Oregon Health and science university in Porland. We travelled there from Va for two years until is body no longer responed to the durg. He then had a Stem Cell transplant which he failed and then on to 4 more clinical trials of drugs derived from Gleevec and 21/2 years of chemo infusions to keep him going until we could get the last drug. Needless to say we battled through so much together but is heart failure 20% ejection fraction was the final straw along with other complications. I never thought he would leave me as I brought him home from the hospital so many times. This life of living and griefing is the hardest thing I have ever had to endure. The pain, emptiness, and fear of not being or not wanting to go home is overwhelming!!! But I know I have to for myself and my son and family. I have found an understanding in your blog on the challenges of the second year, which I am in now. The greif and fear seem to be stronger and I hope I am not in a rabbit hole. I live each day and do all the daily chores including now trying to make his den a new room with the some old and new memories.. But the grief can stop me dead in my tracks. I am 70 and I am trying to take it one day at a time as opposed to thinking 20 more years of this pain—how awful. But the Lord is with me and I have found your 2nd year of grief information very helpful. I am ramblng, I do not feel a need for grief group as my world has solid friends and family. But I can not wear them ouT!!! Thank You for your words and your time.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Linda, you weren’t rambling, just letting out a cry of pain. Grief is the hardest thing I ever experienced, too. I never thought I would have a pain-free day, never thought I would ever want to wake up in the morning, never thought I could ever breathe without wanting to scream. But it does get better, I promise you. It just takes longer than we can imagine. Three to five years is about average. There will always be pain, you will always miss him, but it does diminish. There will even be days you almost forget that half your heart was amputated, where you will feel that you no longer have one foot stuck in the abyss of eternity.

      The second year comes as a shock because conventional wisdom allows a year to grief, and so often the second year is worse. The reality that this is permanent sinks in.

      I am so sorry you have to deal with this. If you need to talk, feel free to leave a comment on any blog post.

      • maryannrose Says:

        I’ll be two years in August 3rd….this year has been hard. I’m doing ok but it’s just this feeling of blah…I have an 8 year old which helps but my adult children also seem to be really struggling this year… So unexpected and misunderstood by those who haven’t been there.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          The blah lasts a long time as does every other aspect of grief. I think it’s why so many of us who have been left alone crave adventure. We need something to make us feel alive again.

      • Linda Christle Says:

        Pat, thank you for your words of encouragement and I agree that one feels like your heart has been amputated. Gary and I were married for 47 years and we dated 4&1/2 years, so we shared life together for a long time. Sometimes I am looking for that young married couple who meant in Hawaii for R&R from Viet Nam in 1970 and I wonder how I ended up here and now without him. I realize the reality but the pain of his absence is so sad.
        I will walk through this 2nd year and I will face that the first year he died and now he is dead. You are still and have been a great help to me during this long journey. Thankyou, I am so sorry for the loss of your life long partner.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          The thing that’s so weird about grief for a long time mate is that you not only grieve the man he became, but the man he was at the beginning and every step in between. And you also grieve for your lost selves -all the women we used to be. I don’t know why death illuminates all these losses, I only know that it does.

  14. Linda Christle Says:

    Great picture of your dance team. Hope the performance went well. You have been through so much and you are smiling!!! Hope your car gets completed SOON.
    I appreciate your words so much they seem to fit my situation so much. I am trying to remember our life over the last 50 years so that I can move forward with out this deep feeling of sadness. I know it is only a year and two months since he passed but I think I expect myself to be further along in the grief process than I am. I still have sudden feelings of overwhelming sadness which can be crippling. I was pleased to read that in can be three to five years in this process. I would think that since every relationship is different that I should not compare mine to another persons grief process. I always thought I was so strong, especiallly all those 17 years dealing with the illness and searching for solutions, I never allowed myself the emotion of crying but now it flows so easily. Well thank you for your time.
    Hope you have a great day.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I didn’t start smiling again until I began taking dance classes. He’d been gone three and a half years at that point, and I just couldn’t shake the deep-seated sadness, but learning to dance brought me back to life. Now at more than five years, I have more happy moments than sad ones. At just over a year, I was where you are now – expecting to be further along in the grief process. Grief has it’s own time schedule. It’s odd, but often the more complicated a relationship is – and long-term illness really complicates things – the more we have to grieve. We grieve what we lost. We grieve what we never had. We grieve all the losses over all those traumatic years we had no time to grieve when they happened. We grieve the loss of the young man. We grieve the loss of our own youth. We grieve for so many things we never even knew caused us sadness. All that takes time.

      And yes, all grief is different, but you’ve read enough about my grief to know there are many similarities when you’ve lost a long time mate. It’s woman who have been through it who told me about the three to five years to renewal. Often on the fourth anniversary, they found they’d turned a corner.

      Wishing you peace.

      And yes, the performance went great. People loved us.

  15. Suzanne O'Connor Says:

    It must be by divine intervention that I came upon your site this morning. I am just about at the 18-month mark of losing my close companion of almost 20 years and I feel more alone than ever, and don’t have much will to change the situation as it is. He passed away in November 2013. Two months later, the company I worked for suddenly declared bankruptcy but, in truth, I navigated that one well, it was a bit of a relief from the stress of restructuring and I fared better than many others financially speaking. What I miss the most is the people on my team… we had a wonderful working relationship. We still keep in touch. Three months later, in May 2014, I received a call that my nephew had been killed by one of his neighbors. He wasn’t involved in any illegal activity, none of that, I had spoken to him on the phone a few months before and I remember him telling that he had a weird neighbor but that it was o.k., he didn’t let too much bother him.
    Like many of you, I felt that after the one year mark, things would start to feel somewhat normal again, moving forward with plans and so on. It just doesn’t seem to work that way. I live about two hours away from my children.
    and grandchildren. I feel selfish that of all the grandparents, I’m the one who seems them the least. We’ve talked about my moving closer to where they live but they definitely aren’t pressuring me. I’m the one who feels that it would be natural to do just that, to see them more often, get back to cooking meals, not a big priority in my life these days even though I always enjoyed cooking and baking for family and friends.
    I love the location where I live, outside the big city but I do spend a lot of time alone through choice actually. I think of activities or volunteer work that I could do but I can’t see myself staying with it. I do feel selfish about this as well but it doesn’t propel me to make a change.
    Reading what many of you have said about the second year – the people we lost are still gone, the people left behind seem to be carrying on with their lives, a lot of them have no choice, they’re busy working and living their lives. It brings me a sense of relief to read that the second year puts us in a sort of limbo. The first year is sheer dealing with the loss and knowing that nothing is expected of us, we can lay on the couch as much as we want and there is a slight bit of comfort in that in a way. I went back to work for another company soon after the other closed and was very busy until this spring and, yes, in between time, the couch and old tv series were my friends.
    Year two is here and I sense that what I feel now is how I’ll feel for the rest of my life. I’m in my sixties and I don’t have a whole lifetime left as is the case for some of you I think. I still can’t find the motivation to make plans.
    I’m looking at the length of my text. I apologize for going on and on. This is the first time I’ve written about the experience of the last year and a half so please forgive me.
    Your many posts have given me comfort in knowing that it’s possible to feel this way, that we’re not crazy or not willing to move ahead. I think your explanations that grief is not neat and tidy but that we shouldn’t lose hope that someday we’ll feel more willing to take part in life as we see it individually, is so reassuring to know even if there is no definite timeline. It is a very lonely period of life right now but, again, your posts are a great comfort.
    Thank you all sincerely.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      If you haven’t already done so, click on “grief posts” at the top of this blog, and sample more of my writing about grief, especially those written about the eighteenth month. You will see that what you are feeling is natural and common. Loss, especially a cascade of losses, takes a long time to process. Three to five years or more before you find some sort of renewal. You still could have a lifetime ahead of you, and you will find a way to happiness again, though you will never get over your loss. It’s like the renewed interest in life wraps around your grief and makes it tolerable. I’m glad you stopped by and left such a long comment. It helps to put your feelings into words. You can stop by whenever you need to. I am always here and willing to listen to a sister in grief.

      And oh, by the way – continue to be selfish as long as you need to. It’s an important part of healing.

    • Sue Bedoyan Says:

      I have read your post, can relate, three years for me. Just wanted to say hope things a little better. X

  16. Suzanne O'Connor Says:

    Thank you Pat. I read some of your posts, and I want to say that your honnesty and clarity about your ongoing feelings since you lost your life mate, ups and downs, are appreciated, because they are so true. By and large, people don’t want to talk about the loss of a loved one but I’m learning that all that does is simmer until someday it comes right back up at us I believe.

    It’s never too late to say it, I am truly sorry for your loss. With the amount of writing you’ve done in recent years, it seems you’ve gone through a long, struggling period of time. But now you’re starting to dance. I think you are at the four to five year mark and it appears that you are seeing glimmers of sun so to speak.

    After writing and sending my previous post this morning, I felt like a wet rag but I wanted to reply to your post.

    I’ll be back and share some positive moments I feel at times, as well. We need to recognize these moments. I know that when I go out and see people, at a relaxing event of my choice, I do feel energized, they remind me of how I once felt and I think we truly need to pay attention to these positives.

    I’m going to do more reading and will be back but I want to say it again, sincere thanks. I hope that in some way our blogs help you as well!
    Until later!

  17. Elizabeth Says:

    I have lost 2 sons and my infant grandson in 18 months. After loosing my 33 year old son to cancer, I was in a state of shock, and numbness, mixed with uncontrollable crying at times. I remember focusing on a garden and my other son, a veteran of the war in Iraq, and my daughter in law, and two grandchildren. She soon was expecting again and gave birth prematurely to a beautiful baby boy. He was precious. We lost him at 1 month old. I lost my second son 5 months later, who was 29 years old. He was the father of the baby that we lost and the two small children. So we lost a total of 3 very loved members of our family in less than 18 months. It has now been almost 2 years. The holidays and his birthday yesterday were more difficult to get through this year. Yesterday was his birthday. I still can not sleep.I will never understand why or what happened. The sorrow and difficulty of letting go and accepting the reality is something beyonds words to express. I have put the children as my main focus, as I am their guardian, and the sorrow and loss they have felt and expressed has been tremendous. I do not dwell on the losses or I would fall apart completely. But sorrow hits in waves, sometimes out of nowhere at the most unexpected times.My faith, and total belief in God and Heaven, and the love and support of my family and close friends have held me together as I hold the little ones together. Still I have experienced sorrows, many sleepless nights, days of being on auto pilot, and holidays and birthdays seem to be harder this year. I have found it helpful to write my thoughts in their memorial pages.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am so very sorry. I cannot even imagine the immensity of your grief. From knowing others who have lost two grown children, I know you never get over it, but that eventually the pain and sorrow becomes easier to handle. It’s good you can write down what you are feeling. Hang on to anything that brings you a moment of peace.

  18. Anita Says:

    Thanks for your lovely words. I am at the end of year two and am truly wondering where has he gone and I am struggling with the loneliness, you made me see it’s normal, painful but normal thankyou

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, painful but normal. It takes a long time to find renewal after such a devastating long — three to five years — so be kind to yourself, and patient. Wishing you peace.

  19. Tera Says:

    My husband’s daughter is getting married next week. I will be attending the wedding but am so anxious about how I will respond. I already cry every time I think about it. He would be so proud. It has been 18 months since my husband’s death and it feels almost worse now.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Of course it feels worse. The second year is awful, and every time you have to deal with something he would have attended, like his daughter’s wedding, you feel his absence even more.

      I’m sorry for your loss, and for his. Sending good thoughts that everything goes okay that day.

  20. Len Says:

    My ex gf lost her dad over a year ago. about 6 months after he died, she broke up with me cause she couldn’t handle loving me…she couldn’t do it cause she said she was broken. A couple of month ago, she started to come back around and things were looking up. Then the first anniversary of his death occurred in July and i have lost her again…she seems even worse. Distant, cold and just wanting to be alone. No matter how much I try to be there for her, she is just falling apart. I like many others thought she was coming out of it…only now to see that she is much much worse. I guess this is common?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Definitely common. I am sorry you both are having to go through this, but the truth is grief, is isolating. It’s all you can do to get through the days. And you do feel broken. Sometimes the second year is harder than the first as the truth that the person is never coming back settles in. Best of luck to both of you.

      • Len Says:

        Thank you for responding. Is it normal that she says she is broken and numb and feels nothing…doesn’t feel love, doesn’t feel happiness but yet seems to go out to all these social events.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I’m sorry. I don’t know if that is normal or not. I’m not a therapist, just someone who experienced deep grief. Sometimes people who lose their spouse go out because they are lonely and need to feel part of the world again, or because they are looking for another mate. But that wouldn’t necessarily hold true if she lost her father. I wish I knew the answer. All I know is that all grief is different.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Is there someone she can talk to? A minister or a therapist? If she doesn’t want to, is there someone you can discuss this with to help you deal with your own feelings?

  21. From Bruising to Blessing | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief […]

  22. Hettie Barnard Says:

    All of a sudden I have realised that there are very few things that can hamstring a good cook who really enjoys cooking more than having no one to cook for. This may seem trivial but for me it is a part of my grief and mourning process that proofs very difficult to deal with. My husband was such an appreciative tester of everything I put before him. I now have no one to cook for on a regular basis and find it very difficult to cook for myself – I am afraid that eggs and carbs and some very mundane salads and frozen vegs are my only creations since he passed away 18 months ago. I know all the answers to that – “be kind to yourself” – “invite friends for a meal” and so on and so forth – but nothing appeals to me – I just want to cook for him and his enjoyment. Feel somewhat childish and petulant – but that’s as may be. In the scheme of things such a small thing and yet it brings me a lot of tears and feelings of helplessness. Paradoxically I still buy recipe books which I bring home and then never open and they lie there in silent condemnation of my unnecessary extravagance and unexplained spending in buying something which I do not really want to utilize.
    I really hate this feeling of hanging on some thread which is about to give out any moment! Grief is such an unpredictable thing – Coming home from work – getting in my car – and BOOM – start uncontrollable weeping – driving home through a veil of tears – so tired of feeling lonely and hopeless with no control over my future which seems endless without the presence of my beloved.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yep. Driving home in tears. We all do it. and no, the loss of you appreciator is not a small thing. It’s but one facet of the great loss, and only exacerbates the grief.

      Grief is a quantum experience in that the beloved is both alive and dead in our minds at the same time. it’s hard not to do the things for them we once did because in one part of our mind they are still alive. It’s this quantum aspect that makes grief so incomprehensible. we are dealing with multiple states of mind when we are at our most vulnerable.

      Be aware that no part of grief is childish and petulant. everything we thought we knew about life has been destroyed.

      I seldom cook anymore. i too understand the concept of being kind to yourself (I have even given that same advice) but it in no way satisfies the yearning we have for the person who made our lives make sense. maybe someday you will cook again but maybe you won’t. (I seldom do any more, lost the heart for that as well as many other things I used to do.)

      I am just so very sorry this sort of pain exists. it’s too damn hard.

      wishing you well.

  23. Kristenia Jones Says:

    Very interesting. My husband died 1 yr. ago. I’m not suicidal I just can’t live without him. He was my whole life. I really don’t want to go on without him😢

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m sorry about your husband, and sorry you have to go on alone. I understand perfectly — I was never suicidal, but I had (and still have) a hard time figuring out how to deal with a world without him in it.

  24. Heidi Says:

    It’s been a year and 1/2 since I lost my husband of 38 years. We met in high school and grew into adulthood together. Heck, we were even both diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. I survived, he did not. At only 59, I need to go to work to earn and income, but I just seem frozen in not being able to move forward to begin again. He was my champion, and now I fear failure and wrong decisions that could create a downward spiral. I’m living in a city full of strangers. I’ve tried churches and meetups, but city life is cold to me. I want to move to someplace quieter and I want to give back. I know helping others will help me feel purposeful again, I just don’t know how to make that initial step. The thought of packing up my now meager belongings is overwhelming.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I understand. I am in much the same situation.To get a job, I have to be where the job will be, but how can you move if you don’t know where the job will be? How do you pick a place to live if you have no reason to be anywhere in particular? How do you make friends, or find like-minded people who will care about you? I still don’t know the answer.Most of my stuff is in storage because I don’t know where to go or what to do. I wish you luck in your daunting task. Others have done it — one woman in our position took off from her New England home by herself and started over in Arizona. Let me know what / if you decide to do.

      • Heidi Says:

        Your words could have been mine. Each day I spend hours looking online at states, towns, costs of living, taxes…all the things my husband would have decided because it would have been for his work as I was a stay at home wife/mom. It’s like looking at a snow globe with life happening merrily on the inside and I’m stuck outside the glass. Funny you mention Arizona as we lived there for a number of years. I’m thinking someplace cold, maybe I just want an excuse to bury myself under a lot of covers and not come out unless I want. Not having a profession makes the ‘getting to work’ part all the more daunting. I guess to sum it up, I just don’t know where I fit in life’s puzzle anymore.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I was able to put off any decision for five years because after Jeff died, I went to take care of my father. Then after he died, I stayed to close up his house, and then I stayed in the area until my car was refurbished. A year ago I took off on a 5-month cross-country trip to see if any place spoke to me, but it didn’t. I came back for the summer and to recuperate for another trip, but now my arm is badly broken, so I can’t do anything for several months. You’d think by now I could have figured out what I want to do, but I am still looking for my piece of the puzzle. I don’t have children, so that’s not a consideration, but what about you? Would you be able to or want to move to be within driving distance of them?

          • Heidi Says:

            Several of my kids are military and not set to one place. The others are still college age and not set yet either. I too have done a lot of traveling to various states. Just loved the pacific northwest. Although my husband and kids have been my life, I feel this time is for me. It was encouraging to hear that it is not selfish to feel this way. I read somewhere where a person describes the loss of a spouse to losing a limb and learning to go on in life without that limb. Everything is a huge change and adjustment and will be for the rest of our years. Hope your arm heals quickly!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Actually, I can’t really understand. It must be terribly difficult to have survived cancer when your husband did not, and then to have to deal with grief and rebuilding your life. Wishing you peace, and hope.

      • Heidi Says:

        To go through treatments and surgeries and trying to make it to your husbands as well, was completely draining. I felt guilty that I would have a positive cancer outcome while knowing he would eventually die from his. Thank you for your site that allow me to release tears that I didn’t realize I was suppressing.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Of course you’re still needing to cry. It takes three to five years to process what you went through, and considering all the trauma you had to endure before he died, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes longer. I’m almost at seven years, and I still occasionally succumb to tears. Let the tears flow. They are not a sign of weakness but a way of releasing the horrendous stress you have bwen under for such a long time. Stop by whenever you need to talk. I’ll listen. 

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Heidi, I hope you’re doing better and have found a place to live.

  25. Suzanne Becker Says:

    In April it will be the second anniversary of my husband’s passing. I’ve done really well but this year it has brought me to tears many, many times.. I thought it would be easier this year but it isn’t. All I can hope is that next year will be better. I will never not miss him. We worked together every day… I have to remind myself of how lucky I was to have had him for so many years.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m so sorry about your husband. From my experience, each year from now on will get a bit easier, though it could take three to six years to pass through the worst of pain. And you are right, you will never not miss him, but as you say, you were lucky to have him for as long as you did. Still, it’s hard dealing with a world from which our loved ones are absent. Wishing you peace.

  26. Darrell Says:

    Just found this article .. I thought something was wrong .. I have been feeling this deep sadden.. trying to manage where it is coming from.. this is 15 months for me.. I lost my life partner .. it’s starting to feel like it did.. in the beginning when it happened.. now I am wrestling with trying to cope without falling apart..

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Unfortunately, nothing is wrong except that your life partner is gone. Grief never actually goes away — you just have longer and longer between bouts of sadness and they don’t last as long. It’s normal. You got through it the first time, and you will get through it again. Cry, scream, write your partner a letter, anything to bring yourself comfort. Wishing you peace as you go through this painful time.

  27. Paula Hardin Says:

    It has been 1 year and 9 months since my husband of 42 years died. I was 18 when we married and I had to learn how to be alone. I like it sometimes but most of the time U wish I had someone as a companion to keep me company. I’m 63 and I just feel I don’t have anything to look forward to. I have dated some. But at my age the best place to meet men is on a dating site. I’ve met a few nice ones but the ones I like end up either being a liar, Cheater, or one was married! Most I text and they say something that throws me a red flag. I’ve quit that for a while and just being with me I’m very depressed. I takes medicine for that an anxiety but I don’t think it does any good. I have had come grief counseling and have read tons of articles on dealing with grief. I hope after this two year milestone is going to help me want to get up and do something

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m so sorry. It’s always hard to lose someone, but around sixty seems especially hard. Too old to fall in love easily, too young to live life alone. I’m impressed that you actually tried a dating site — it took me more than three years, but nothing came of it. Are you physically able to take walks? Sometimes that helps with the depression. Or what about dance classes or painting classes to get you out of the house? I hope, if nothing else, you find peace.

  28. Helen N Says:

    So relieved to have found your blog. Your wise words and those of others here have made me realise why year 2 has been so hard. It will be the second anniversary of my husband’s death in one week’s time. We were married 26 years and he battled cancer for the last 12 months of our marriage. What has shocked me, reading these posts is the realisation that I am not just grieving for the man who, at the age of 58, was finally overcome by the aggressive disease he had fought so hard against. I have realised for the first time that I am also grieving for the carefree funny man I first met, the man who proposed to me, the man who in later life battled depression and stress at work, then took early retirement at the age of 57 and was just getting his life back on track, only for his future happiness – and ours together – to be so cruelly snatched away. The dreams we had for a long and happy retirement together are gone. I’m left behind still working (as I was 8 years his junior I still had/have a long way to go before I can quit work) Its just the sheer unfairness of it all. We had just one wonderful daughter together and she has turned out to be a remarkable clever, beautiful young woman. She was very close to her Dad and is heartbroken by his loss. However (and here’s the part that is so difficult to admit – even to myself – but I need to say it) I so envy her and the life she has ahead of her. She has a wonderful boyfriend – you couldn’t wish for a nicer young man … and yet, I envy them so much it hurts. They have their whole lives in front of them and when I see them together so happy and content and so obviously in love the pain of what I have lost is magnified. I so desperately want a ‘do-over’ – to turn back the clock and experience all those happy, sad, funny, special moments that I had with my husband at the start of our relationship and to be young and carefree again myself. I keep telling myself I’m not going insane and certainly your blog has given me fresh perspective – I have recognised for the first time the grief I feel for the loss of our younger selves – my younger husband and the younger me.
    Thank you for providing the space to let me unload and for offering some sense to the wretched feelings I have right now.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      No, you’re not going insane. You’re going through grief. I started writing about my grief when I realized that what I was feeling in no way resembled the way grief is often portrayed — you go through five or seven stages, and then you’re done. That idea is so wrong!! You grieve everything — the years you had, the years you’ll never have. The youth that’s gone, the golden years you’ll never share. The process is so overwhelming it’s amazing we ever find peace, but somehow, as the years pass, we do, though there will be horrific upsurges every time you or your daughter reach a milestone (her wedding, your first grandchild) because he isn’t there. It’s been seven years for me, and I still want to turn the clock back, to go home to him, to see his smile one more time. I know what you mean about envying your daughter — your love story came to an abrupt halt, and hers is just beginning. In my case, I envied my parents — they were together for sixty years. it’s just darn too hard. Any time you need to unload, fee free to stop by. Sometimes putting your feelings in words helps make sense of the wretchedness.

  29. adrianne dollard Says:

    Now I understand I didn’t understand why it seems to be worse now than it was the first year. More Tears.. more sorrow. But what you wrote makes sense. Thank you.

  30. Michelle Butler Says:

    Reading all these posts makes me feel so not alone. It’s been 14 months since the love of my life passed away. He died in his sleep of a heart attack. He was only 55. I was not there so I have no closure and it’s killing me slowly. I too did not understand why, after so many months, i was still crying and feeling depressed and as the others said just sitting here “waiting”. Then the unthinkable happened. His 29 year old son died unexpectedly over the weekend. It’s like Jeff’s death all over again. I don’t understand why this world is so cruel. I feel isolated and just want to go be with him. I’ve tried grief groups and support but my stubborn mind just wants to sit and wallow. Pathetic! I feel him around at times and see dozens of signs he is sending me. I wish I could just close my eyes and go to sleep and not wake up. But I think I will be here for a long time. Now I have to figure out how to deal with it. By the way Pat, I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am so sorry for your great losses. Of course you want to wallow. It’s only been fourteen months. I don’t know why we think we should “get over” the death of the person or persons who made life worth living, but the truth is, we don’t. Eventually, we become someone who can handle the horror of it all, but that takes years. At least three, maybe longer. It’s been seven years for me, and I still have times of waiting. For many years, I expected a call from him to tell me I could go back home (after he died, I left our home and went to a different state to take care of my aged father), but Jeff (my Jeff) never did. I was with when he died, had closure, and it was still hard for me to believe he was gone. You are not pathetic. You are grieving. As hard as it is, as painful as it is, grieving is important. Don’t let people shame you into thinking it’s wrong. At fourteen months, you are still a toddler when it comes to grief. Be kind to yourself. Be at ease knowing you are normal in an abnormal world.

    • maryannrose Says:

      The second year is the hardest I think. I am just four years out and this past year I have finally felt at peace and ready to truly move ahead.

      • Pat Bertram Says:

        maryannrose, the second year really is the hardest for most of us. I am so please you have found peace and glad you stopped by to encourage those who still have a long way to go. Wishing you continued peace.

  31. Anne Costa Says:

    I can’t believe how horrible this second year is, I thought the first year was a nightmare, but now it’s mostly a blur, but this second year… I too feel like I’m waiting, for what I don’t know and then the realization hits me that I’m never going to see the love of my life again and I don’t want to go on. It’s too hard, but it does help to find that others feel the same and I’m not losing my mind. I feel like I’m never going to be happy again.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Anna, it is horrible, and of course you don’t want to go on feeling the way you do, but I promise, it will get better. Someday (maybe not this year or next year) you will find a renewed interest in life and gradually moments of happiness will creep back. How we ever learn to live without the love of our life, I don’t know, but as the years pass, we do learn but we never forget.

      Wishing you peace.

  32. maryannrose Says:

    Hang in there. I’m 4 years in and I finally feel at peace and am moving forward in my new reality. I still miss him but I now feel like I have a purpose in my single life.

  33. Karen Says:

    Hi Pat – another Sadder Saturday for me. I’m @ 1 year & 3.5 months since I lost my husband of almost 30 years, the love of my life, suddenly & without warning. All I see is shades of grey on the horizon. Also, sad because it feels like I am moving farther & farther away from him, and our life together. Some days it just feels like it was another lifetime ago, or that it didn’t even happen at all. Have any of you felt like that at? A close ‘friend’ of mine marvels at the fact that I am still grieving, and ‘can’t let go of the past’, she says I cannot accept anything ending. Well – she admits she never loved anyone as I love my husband, but still insists that it’s my personality that responsible for my grieving. I am so mixed up at this point. It seem that our ‘outside’ world “allows” the first year of grieving, but after that – we should be getting on with our lives..

    I have not been just lying around & crying. This last year – I have sometimes had to force myself- but I get out to church & Bible studies & and out to different places with other lady friends – but looking for another man to love is out of the question, have no desire to ever date again. I have done projects around the house, and home maintenance, got a reverse mortgage so I could stay in the house we loved, and so I can keep my many pets. I want to be as independant as I can – I don’t want to rely on others, as I saw that not many were there to help out, even right after he died.

    I just wish that more people were aware of what we widows & widowers go thru, but I guess it’s just too painful anticipating that one day – they will be us.

    • maryannrose Says:

      I agree that it often seems like a dream…my husband died suddenly after 27 years. I’m four years in now and it took me all that time to really be at peace with it all. I’m outgoing and involved with church BUT it was just so hard. It was like a realization that I was okay and I’m starting to really establish my new life. Don’t let anyone rush you!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      One year and three months is not much at all. The truth is, it takes three to five years to be able to find renewal again, and for many of us, the second year is the worst.

      Do not let anyone minimize your grief. What you are feeling is absolutely normal. You are probably still dealing with the shock of the suddenness of the death of your husband, as well as all the tangential losses, such as the loss of companionship, a friend, shared hopes for the future, and dozens of other losses. It’s almost impossible to process all that in the time non-widows think is appropriate for grieving. And then, every anniversary of any kind will bring grief back in its raw state. I was like you, doing all sorts of things, not just lying around crying, but it was only after the 7th anniversary that grief has left me alone.

      If you haven’t already, I would suggest checking out the various articles I wrote about grief (the archives are here:, paying particular attention to the comments. As horrible as grief is, it is somewhat of a relief to find out that what you are feeling is perfectly normal. And yes, I wished people were aware of our grief, too. That is why I shared my experiences on this blog.

      Wishing you peace.

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