731 days

We count everything. Birthdays and anniversaries. Sleeps 'til Christmas. Days until holiday, nights until we return home. Years since, days until. Wedding anniversaries have a material associated with them, a traditional one and a modern one. We made it to Linen/Fruit or flowers. I've done Wood/Silverware (I had new decking in the garden) and Iron/Sugar alone. This year I didn't buy myself anything. Although maybe the chocolate and wine counts for the sugar!

It's been two years since Chris died. 731 days lived without him. And many more to come.

Opinions vary on whether the "year of firsts" is harder or the second year is worse. As I enter the third year of widowhood I am reflecting on this.

The year of firsts feels like a set of challenges. To begin with you focus on making it through each hour, then each day. Then each week to each month. You see the first birthday, anniversary, or Christmas approaching and start to plan your survival strategy, how you wll mark it. The children's birthdays, how will you make up for him not being here without emphasising his absence? The key dates come and go and you congratulate yourself for making it through, while noticing that it wasn't actually quite as bad as you anticipated. You make a mental note on what to do differently next year. You start to have more good days, although the bad days still wipe you out, but you realise it is possible to laugh and have fun and even feel happy, while part of your heart is still broken.

I entered the second year with some trepidation. How could it be worse than the first year, and if it was, how would I survive it? There were differences. In the second year, some people were surprised that I was still dreading my birthday, although I did celebrate it, much to my mum's relief. I'm not dreading my birthday this year. I knew Christmas would be hard so I booked a trip to see my best friend in Australia for the school holidays.

As year two went on, it didn't seem that much worse than the first year, and I was waiting for it to hit me. I began to do more and be more adventurous, I went on holidays, changed job, took some time off for me. I made it through major family milestones. I engaged more with the WAY widowed and young community, making new friends. I started regular yoga and meditation sessions with Laura Routh Parsons and continued Reiki with Experience Reiki. Lockdown happened and all those supports were suddenly taken away. Wanting to avoid loneliness I started an online pub for the WAY community and another member created a pub quiz which has been a lifeline for many. Even with lockdown I didn't feel the second year was worse than the first, although it did feel different.

It is as I have approached the end of year 2 that I have noticed the relentlessness of this grief. There is no reward for getting through today, this month or this year apart from another day, month or year, all still without Chris. There is no countdown to seeing him again. Every year on 13th July I move a year further away from him being here with me. And this will not change. For me this is the difference of year 2, and potentially 3, from year 1. As I accept my loss and learn to live with it, I need to look to a future that will not have Chris in it, and I need to start to imagine how I would like that to take shape.

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