One of my favorite quotes likens grief to being mildly drunk or concussed. C.S. Lewis says "...there is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in..."
People told me the second year can be harder than the first, and I can believe it. Year One was living in the haze. Year Two rips off the blanket.
Year One begs the question: Can there be a day more difficult than the one you held your dead daughter in your arms? Year Two answers. A resounding yes.
It's the day you realize what's been made of you. The one where can't get out of bed or can't stop crying, which is forever a possibility but in Year Two it's no longer acceptable to recoil and hide. In Year Two you can't check the box for bereavement leave, which seems appropriate only this box is no longer one you can mindfully exit. You live in that box. Year Two confirms this.
Year One you turn around but Year Two you keep driving. To work. To the game or the mall or the wedding because it's been two years and you think you should. When you arrive and you want to cry or buy all the ice cream, you smile instead because it's Year Two and because you left your wallet in the car.
Year Two is the first day you hide her.
It's the day someone comments on how nice you look after having two children and you smile, but on the inside you're screaming because there are three. Because you are thirty years old and you've already had three children, and you've already buried one.
It's the day you turn around and they've stopped calling. Stopped asking. And maybe they want to but it's Year Two and they think they shouldn't. It's the day you denounce the universe for allowing time to pass. The same day you look down and realize you are moving with it; that your world is spinning just as much.
It's the first day you hold her baby brother. Perfect and healthy and the day they let you take him home. When your heart is bursting with relief and love and gratitude but the ache hasn't left. When your arms are full but they'll never be. It's the day you realize that even at your happiest, you will still be sad.
Year One was that first day without you. Over. And over. And over again.
Year Two was the next day. Year Two is the rest of my life.
It's not all bad, of course. Year One removed but Year Two has provided. Insight and perspective aside, Year Two gave me solid, tangible things that I can feed and love and sing to sleep. Year Two was growth and true smiles, more than I ever thought possible when you died. Year Two lifts the shock that was your death. The dust has settled and that's nice but there's a density to the air now. And some days it's still hard to see.
In a word, the Year Two me is reeling. The most beautiful, tragic stumble into a life I've only just met.
I'm learning, though. What to take on and what to set aside. I'm learning to count my losses but not my chickens. How to feel the ache in more productive ways. Healthier ways. I'm learning that whoever said "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" isn't someone I'd like to punch.
Because losing you didn't kill me. I'm here and you're not, and that's a wall that will never make sense. Maybe I'm climbing it because I have no choice. Maybe there are days I'd rather run. Maybe a good amount of those days fell in Year Two, and maybe so did lots of ice cream.
But I'm not running. I'm looking up and I'm shaking but I haven't stopped and that has to count for something.
Year Two is done but I'm not.