Friday, November 27, 2009

The Next Day

The day after / El dia después,
originally uploaded by Manuel Atienzar.

I'm finding that what has been recommended as a survival plan for significant anniversary days works. You must look ahead, plan ahead and incorporate your loved one in the day. This "technique" has worked both on our one year wedding anniversary, which was one month after Michael's death. And has also been very effective on Thanksgiving Day. By anticipating my emotions, and needs, ahead of time, I was able to plan each day with quiet time to honor Michael, to sit with him, and then proceed through the day without a major break down. What I haven't been able to plan well is the day after!

I've been wisely told by many that the first year of grief will be the "year of firsts." There will be many occasions that will be the "first time" without Michael. In a short span of two months, I have already had the first wedding anniversary without...the first Halloween without...and now the first Thanksgiving without Michael. And while it helps to get through each of these occasions easier, I'm feeling like I'm only doing it for the benefit of others. In my situation it is clearly for the benefit of my children. While they are now used to seeing their dad sitting on the couch in tears, in his bedroom in tears, or driving the car in tears, they shouldn't have to spend each holiday seeing me in tears. I think it is hard enough on kids who are grieving, so for this reason I am making a concerted effort. Yet it is not without a cost. There are many days that I wake up to that to others would not recognize as a significant anniversary. Sometimes I don't even register why I am feeling as I am until I reach for my Blackberry and look back to the previous year.

In this year of firsts, part of me desires to fully indulge in my grief. In a way I am envious of those whose children are already grown up, so they are less restricted, or apprehensive, about expressing themselves. It may just be me, my personality, codependency, or whatever you want to call it. I feel that I have a responsibility to not bring the room down, especially for my kids. Yet there is definitely a learning curve with any new experience, and grief is no different. So far my experience is telling me that what I put off today, I will experience tomorrow, sometimes two-fold. I use the word "balance" quite often, as it is something I strive for. By my attempts to over plan, over control, these significant days, I am waking up the next day with migraines, deep depression and more tears. I suppose I wanted so badly to survive these days with less fall-out, that I didn't fully understand what I was supposed to be doing. The benefit is not to get through these emotional mine fields unscathed, the benefit is to be mindful of what I am feeling.

It will continue to be a challenge to balance my own emotional needs with those of my children. I won't always get it right, but I will attempt to do this with less of a personal toll. Perhaps with practice I will suffer less by this Next Day syndrome.


  1. the year of first articulates so much that i cant, well, you say a lot that rings true to me. i dont have kids but its the same for friends and family around me and only now am i starting to realise how to grieve better bc i was dominantly an emotional wreck for a long time. i have my days where i dont leave the room but its abt expelling the grief. the year of firsts is almost done for me and i see a change up ahead.

  2. Like you I plan for the actual day and always seem to suffer the day after ... I guess the pain has to come out, we can't really and truly fight the emotions ... just like water, they will find their way ... and it is always the day after that is worse for me

  3. inside your words is the direction you can take. you have the gift of looking profoundly and deeply into yourself and understand. then you take that same gift and extend it outward.

    i believe that earning to live without the only person you can ever love will be a lifelong lesson, but it will be a powerful gift for your children. you and Michael have shown them care "in sickness." now you will teach them about the power of continued love, the gift that memories can give, and how to blend the two into a different life for yourself. they will see your year of "firsts," then "seconds," and so on. they will see the continued ripples one person's life can have even though he is no longer here.

    for me the day after an important day is much the same as the day before or the day of. it is all running together like a watercolor i am crying over. the image has now lost its crispness but the softening of it and the blending of the colors with the tears makes for a heart-catching sight. a life forever altered. a love taken away. the pain as it reshapes the survivor. all in all, a painting of a life that can arrest even the most casual passerby.

    blessings and peace.

  4. Dan,

    I am so sorry for your loss of Michael. I found your blog through womanNshadows' blog and it has touched my heart. My husband died 8 months ago from a heart attack and I have two boys at home.

    I can relate so deeply to your post. I find it so hard to grieve like I really need to grieve some days because I don't want to scare the kids - they are so worried about me and I don't want to feed their fear. I've actually booked a solo grief vacation in Feb. for the purpose of just grieving in the ways I need to in a place that was so important to both of us. It's always good to know that others are out there dealing with similar issues. It makes this journey a little less lonely.

    Take care. I look forward to reading your blog.


  5. Thanks to each of you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. This exchange is so helpful. Sometimes the biggest comfort comes from knowing that what I am experiencing is common. I know we each experience loss uniquely, but there are common threads throughout. My visual is that the inter-twining of our common and unique threads are creating both a beautiful and strong fabric. This is what I will wrap myself in when sorrow has me feeling so alone.


  6. Your words are so true, Dan.

    An 'experienced widow' (of 5yrs) once told me that sometimes the days that you expect to be the worst, end up not ‘as bad’ because there was a certain amount of 'pre-grieving' involved. But then, the crash from it can still come down so hard, usually not long after.

    There have been many hard days, but my youngest one’s 2nd birthday has been the hardest 'event' to date. I managed through most of the day, but at the end of the night when all was quiet, I crashed. It used all the strength in my body to get through it and I felt as if I had run a marathon that day.

    It is tough trying to keep it together for the kids - but it's ok to share some of your grief with them too. Trying to find that balance between expressing your grief as you need to, yet not overwhelming them with it, yet giving them the opportunity to witness it and know it's healthy (as you are clearly grieving in a healthy way), and still finding a way to honour theirs . . . grief is hard enough, and with the above to consider it makes it near impossible. But it's not. And, your ability to help them through it will turn them into even more amazing people then they were already set to be.


  7. The day after is much harder. I wonder if we did the same preparation for the day after, if then the 2nd day after would be that much worse?

    I think your kids are old enough to see your grief, but do what you feel is right. You know them best. Just know that they value you for your humanness, not your perfection.

    Remember that there is no "right" way to grieve (even though I do like to provide "tips," that's just me!). Sadly, there aren't any answers either.

    I'm glad to have found you so I can hear your insights into this crappy journey!