When my husband died a lot of people said to me, ‘the first year is the worst, just get through that’ So, I did. I worked day in and day out, living with grief, doing my best to ‘get through,’ believing that once the first year was over everything would be so much easier. But when the second year came around, I found myself thinking, ‘Well, what now?’ I didn’t feel the relief I imagined I would. I had been so busy, living day by day that I found myself at a bit of a loss for what to do next.
Furthermore, I was still in a state of total grief and heartbreak. The thought of going through another year like the last one filled me with fear, But I had made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to become a victim of my loss. I knew I had to start building a new life around it, but I just didn’t know where to start. I had totally lost my purpose and my drive. That’s why I call the second year after bereavement the Second Year Slump!
So, as one of the UK’s first bereavement coaches, here’s some of my best advice for getting through the dreaded second year slump:
As the second year rolls around, it can be really useful to reflect on everything that’s happened during your first year.
By looking back, you’ll be able to establish what you feel worked well and what you feel could be done differently. Maybe you’ve been doing things the same as you’ve always done them in memory of your loved one, but this in-fact, made you feel worse. Take these experiences and learn from them. Maybe this year could be an opportunity to try something different and see if that makes things any easier. It’s hard finding your way and doing things differently. Whether it’s changing the bedroom around or trying something different at Christmas, don’t let guilt or fear hold you back. Doing things your way can be liberating and empowering and will help you to understand what helps you cope with your grief moving forward.
Equally, if you feel you did something well and it helped you deal with your grief then continue with that. Sometimes it can feel good to hold onto a bit of tradition and sometimes it can feel good to do things in your own way. Just find YOUR best way and go with that.
If, like me, you’re starting your second year post-bereavement thinking you’re no further forward, then I would advise you to make a list of all the things you’ve achieved over the past year. It can be so easy when living with grief, day in and day out, to feel like you’re not moving forward. But try to sit and write down everything you’ve done, fears you’ve faced, challenges you’ve overcome – big or small. I bet the list will be much longer than you might think!
For me, one of my achievements was learning to tow the caravan. My husband, Simon, introduced us all to caravanning, much to my dismay (as I was always a 5* hotel kind of girl) when the girls were young. Initially I wasn’t that taken with it but over the years grew to love it. So much so that when Simon died I wanted to be able to continue caravanning. However, I had no idea how to get the caravan from A to B or how to set it all up. So, I booked myself onto a towing course and asked anyone that knew anything about caravanning to help me.
When the time came to go on our first caravan holiday, I was so nervous. I booked a short break somewhere close to home in case we got stranded, and the girls and I piled into the caravan for our first caravan holiday without Simon. It was a huge success! I honestly felt invincible and I was so proud of myself. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Now, me and the girls still venture out on our caravan trips together, building new memories and treasuring old ones – and with Simon’s sun hat still in the caravan it feels like he’s with us in his own special way
So, during this second year, reflect on your ‘caravan moments,’ – even if your caravan moment is just getting out of bed in the morning. Congratulate yourself on everything you’ve overcome and celebrate the big and small achievements. You’re doing amazing things every day.
Embracing self-care is an absolute must! If there’s one thing I can recommend when living with grief in the second year, it’s to take care of yourself.
Self-care is so much more than just a buzzword. It’s a necessity. Of course, you’ll need to do what you can to stay healthy. Eat well, move as much as you can and get some fresh air. If you can, also try to reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake. There may be days when this seems impossible, but these things can do wonders for your sleep, which is so important when it comes to healing, both emotionally and physically. However, you should also dedicate time to relax and unwind. Curl up with a good book, a new series, try some meditation, or take a yoga class.
Self-care means different things to different people. However, whatever self-care looks like to you, just make sure you find some time to focus on yourself this year. You matter. Remember: you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Living with grief often makes people close themselves off from other people and from relationships. However, it’s really important to build yourself a support system with people you care about during this second year. This could be with existing family or friends, or with new ones.
Don’t ever be afraid to lean on people when you need help, support, or just a friendly face. You should also never feel like you’re bothering or boring people with your thoughts, feelings and grief. It’s so important to use your relationships to talk about your feelings, as this helps your brain to process your shock and your loss. And of course, sometimes you just need to spend time with people to blow off some steam.
Human connection is a fundamental need, it helps improve physical health and psychological well-being. Without it, we can feel isolated, lonely and depressed. Whether you’re venting, asking for help or just doing something you enjoy, find the people that make you feel better and spend time with them.
After losing someone you love, your relationships with family and friends can change. Some will be strengthened, but you might find that some become diminished. In either case, your second year of living with grief can be a great time to expand your social circle and meet new people.
If you’ve lost a spouse or partner, you may feel like you want to start dating during this second year. It’s very natural to miss the intimacy and companionship that comes with a partner. So, don’t be afraid to open yourself up to love, companionship and friendship again. Depending on who you are and what feels right for you, you could dip a toe into the dating world again. But don’t fear. This doesn’t mean you’re committing to anything, so don’t feel guilty. Just take things slowly and see how it makes you feel – one step at a time.
Alternatively, you might just want to form some new friendships during this time. Starting a new hobby or joining a local community group can be a great way to do this. Connecting with new people in your second year can help you to feel like you’re building a life around your grief rather than getting lost in it.
However, it’s important to understand that whatever you’re feeling with regards to dating and forming new friendships is totally normal. Whether you’re open to meeting new people, or completely opposed to the idea, just make sure to check in with yourself and find what feels right to you.
The second year post-bereavement can be a really hard time, because you’ll feel like you’re expected to be coping better. You’ll feel like you should be able to do all of the things you found difficult in the first year. But it’s so important to avoid putting those expectations on yourself.
You should remember that you’re still allowed to grieve. You’re still allowed to feel sad. Know that you’re still allowed to find things difficult, and you’re still allowed (and encouraged!) to ask for help when you need it. As a bereavement coach, one of the most common things I share with people is that wherever you are in your journey, when it comes to living with grief we’re all different. Everybody deals with loss differently and there is no right or wrong way.
During this second year, don’t put pressure on yourself to feel or act a certain way. Just focus on being kind to yourself and don’t expect too much too soon!
Living with grief has a way of pulling us back, making us live in the past. It can be difficult to want to move forward and terrifying to feel like you are. But moving forward doesn’t have to mean forgetting.
This year, try to find something that will move you and your life forward in a healthy way. Book a holiday, plan something with family or friends, or even try a new hobby. Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to try or experience, but never had the time or the focus to do it. Or, perhaps you have an old hobby or interest that you’ve lost along the way.
During the second-year slump, it’s so important to find something to focus on and look forward to. So, try something new or rediscover something old this year.
Another important thing I often remind my clients (and myself) is that it’s so important to be patient with yourself.
The second-year slump may not have provided that light at the end of the tunnel that you’ve been waiting for. But that’s okay. You shouldn’t expect everything to be miraculously better during the second year.
However, at this point you’ll know that living with grief has its ups and downs. You’ll also know by this point that although the downs do happen, you will make it back up again.
So, just be really patient with yourself and your feelings during the second year.
It’s natural for us to want to push away and avoid negative or unpleasant feelings such as grief. And it’s also normal for us to beat ourselves up during the second year, feeling like we shouldn’t still be grieving so heavily.
However, the truth is, you will always be living with grief, even if this becomes less of a focus with time. The important thing is to not be afraid of this grief during our lowest points.
When we push away unwanted feelings, our brain taps into a natural fear response, perceiving a threat that hasn’t been addressed. And in this case, the brain keeps alerting you of the ‘threat’ until you deal with it. Allowing yourself time to grieve, and to process your feelings gives your brain and body a chance to process and to heal.
So, when you’re at your lowest, don’t be afraid of your feelings. You have to feel them – it’s all part of the grieving and healing process. Allow yourself time to grieve, find ways of dealing with your lows, and understand that it will pass.
My last piece of advice for living with grief during the second-year slump is to reach out to grief support groups, networks and services.
It can be so invigorating and comforting to speak to people who have been through similar experiences with grief and loss. Sometimes, no matter how hard they try to help, people close to you just haven’t been through what you have. So, engaging with local bereavement groups can help you to feel less alone.
When I began to reach out to others who were living with grief, I began to understand that I wasn’t on my own, I wasn’t going mad, and that what I was thinking and feeling was totally normal. (Even if it didn’t feel normal to me.)
During this time, I also began working with a life coach. This gave me a professional, unbiased, non-judgemental person I could go to with all of my worries and thoughts. And it was so liberating to be able to be completely honest with someone. Working with a coach also helped me to gain clarity, confidence and purpose again. I was able to pinpoint the areas of my life I wasn’t happy with, work out where I wanted to get to, and find the steps needed to get myself there.
Honestly, this was one of the best decisions I made following the death of my husband. It was completely transformative!
After working with a coach myself to support me in living with grief, I trained to become one of the UK’s first bereavement coaches. I now offer emotional and practical support to people living with grief and loss. I help people to understand and process what they’re going through and to find healthy ways to move forward with their lives. – All in a supportive, judgement-free environment.
If you feel like you would like some more support, please do get in touch with me.