The second year

“You’ve made it through the first year, the worst is over.”

Every grieving parent has heard that, numerous times. Whether it be from a friend, family member, colleague, client, or customer, we have all heard it, Dorothy and I included.  It might be worded a bit differently, might be said at different times, but we have all heard it all several times. When it has been said to us, we have smiled, we have been courteous, said thank you, finished the conversation, turned and walked away. We know the person saying it has such good intentions and means it to help us, but where they draw this idea from we don’t know – and we hope they never do know our pain. We listen to what they say, make eye contact, and smile at them, but inside we cry a little more. Inside we hurt a little more. Inside we know that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Last year during Thanksgiving, we sat at the table without Andrew. It was the first holiday for which he usually came home from college. It was his senior year and all of his friends came home to their families. Nicole came home. And yet…no Andrew. We had our turkey dinner, we had desert, we talked a little, but there was nothing to be thankful for.  Our Andrew was not with us. It was the first holiday without him, the first of many. We were realizing that this was our new reality.

Then it was Hanukkah and soon after my birthday. Both very empty. Then Dorothy’s birthday, Christmas, and his twenty-second birthday, and New Year’s Eve, and Nicole’s birthday. He was not here to celebrate any of them with us. We tried to make these special days as normal as possible, we tried to be with family and friends as much as we could. We tried to celebrate in ways that we could. But it hurt. It was always the first time.

It was the first Christmas tree at grandma’s house without Andrew putting on his favorite ornaments. It was the first year Dorothy and I went holiday shopping for one child, not two. It was the first birthday in so many years that my son did not call me to wish me a happy birthday. There were no gifts for Andrew anywhere. There were no cards for him, no calls, no nothing. And it was the first time. Everything was different. Everything was hard. But we made it through that season of firsts.

There were other firsts and events as well. It was the first Mother’s Day on which my loving wife’s only son did not call her. We sat at the Passover table for the first time and he did not participate in the four questions – for the first time. We went on a small vacation over the summer, for the first time, just the three of us.

Everything we did, everything we saw, everything in that first year was a first. And it was so hard to get through them. The first this, the first that. Every time anything happened, or we did something together, we realized Andrew was not there with us this year. We realized we were alone, the three of us.

People tell us that we made it through. Of course we did. We had no choice. We had to keep our feet moving, our lives had to go on. We still had to work, Nicole still had to go to school. We placed his headstone at the end of that first year with many of our friends, Andrew’s friends, and family by our side.The first year was over.

Then in September the second year started. And people told us that we made it through the toughest times of our lives, and many said it would get better. Even though they never experienced what we are going through, and hopefully never will, they reassured us that things get better. They never experienced their child’s birthday – AFTER their child was gone. We very much appreciate people talking to us, calling and visiting us, going out to lunch or dinner with us, and helping us. Without our great friends and family that we are grateful for, that first year would have  been so much more difficult. We are very grateful for the special people in our lives. Without the conversations we have had with them, the healing conversations, the stories we share, the sympathy that they show us, we don’t know what we would have done this first year.

That first year taught us one thing – over and over again. That Andrew was gone, that he was no longer with us. We cried a lot, just about every day. We looked at pictures of Andrew every day; they are all over the house, our computers and our phones. The shock wore off after the first few months. Then the pain set in. The realization that he is gone cut deeper every day.

But now we are in our second year. And it is worse, but in a different was. Here’s why:

Through the High Holidays, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Hanukkah, and so forth, Andrew is STILL not here. We know that. But we now have to face the cold fact that he will never be with us again. Ever. He is gone…forever. He will never help us carve the Thanksgiving turkey, or ever smile when he opens his Hanukkah gifts. He will never have dinner with Uncle Roy, or go skiing with Todd and Greg. He will never again help decorate or see a Christmas tree. He is gone forever. In year three, and four, and five and for the rest of our lives, he is gone. And that hurts more than the first year when he was just not here. We went from the deep pain that he is not here, to the searing realization that he will never, ever, be here again.

Yes, the first year was difficult – missing Andrew at every holiday, birthday and family gathering. But the second year is harder. We now have to face the reality that he will never again be with us for the rest of our lives. And that hurts.


I could not find any places in this post to appropriately put pictured of Andrew and the family, but I think the pictures I post are an important part of each post. So here they are at the end of the post. All showing how happy Andrew was all the time.



CCI09272014_00005 - Copy

Apple picking – lots of fun






Showing surprise and awe at Bubby’s 65th.

19 thoughts on “The second year

  1. Jim Cavallo

    Dear Perry,
    Andrew’s loss will change you. You have no choice.
    How you handle it is your choice.
    It will either destroy you or make you stronger.
    Your struggle to deal with this is why we are here for you.
    Jim Cavallo

    1. Leslie Hutton

      Another well written post. To me the hardest part of the second year was I think the fact that the “fog” had lifted and I was more aware of all of those “dates” t hat I would rather not pay any attention to ever again. That fog was very protective. The other thing I noticed was the decrease in support. So many thought that since we had made it through those “firsts” that we no longer needed help in our grief journey. And some times help isn’t needed but it is nice to be asked rather than told.
      In my journey I have spoken with many bereaved parents who are not as far as long on this road as I am. I am always asked about the second year. I don’t lie. My second year was much harder for me than the first. I always buffer it by saying that everyone is different. All I can say is take it one breath, one step at a time. Together we will do this

    2. tina farley

      I am in my second year. It hurts so bad. As I read your story I too sit here so sad. Well beyond sad. No words describe the feeling inside me. I have become very good at pretending. The second year other people have moved past my loss and don’t mention it. For me the loss od my son Cory is just settling in and getting very comfortable. I just can’t find happiness. Life doesn’t make sense anymore. So sorry you too know this sickening pain. No words describe the emptiness we feel for life. We have become pretenders.

  2. Susan wallace

    Hard to read… The loss and emptiness must be unbearable. You, Dorothy and Nicole have so much strength, even if you don’t think so.

  3. Sally Klein

    I can only trust and hope that what Leslie wrote helps us still relatively recently bereaved parents endure through each difficult moment, Perry. We must be there for each other because those others who did not experience our kind of loss can never understand

  4. Hillary

    Hi Perry and Dorothy-
    It is 14 months since Ron died. Today I started writing a journal about my loss partly because as the months go by I have learned the pain continues when i least expect it. I cannot know what the loss of a child is, only the loss of a husband who seems to leave way too early. I also view it as our society’s inability to accept death in an open matter and its continued denial that none of us are going to die. Death knows knows no boundaries, it does not discriminate and you do not have to be rich or poor because death is real. We are continually bombarded of images of death on TV on the web and newspapers. And yet our mass denial of death won’t touch us is a bit crazy. The truth is that no one not even myself will ever know your pain. I can’t fathom it but I know enough about bereavement to know that we learn to live with it not get over it.
    As always I am sorry for your loss, sorry for the losses of all parents’ in the world who have lost children and sorry for my own loss, because my life and myself is changed forever.

  5. Barbara Muldoon

    Dear Dorothy and Perry. As you know I am no stranger to grief. I so knew what the end of the first year brings, harsh, piercing understanding that it is real, that they are gone and we will never, ever, hold them, see them, touch them, hear their voices, share their laughter and see their smile realize the dreams we had or what might have been. The catatonic state is over and we now are left with the pain and hurt that will never, ever, ever go away. Thank you for your words, they are so true.

  6. Mom

    Life will never get better. Unfortunately, we have to live with it. I will forever miss his hugs and kisses, and I love you bubby with his smiling face and warmth. He never said anything bad about anyone. He will be forever in my thoughts and hurting heart. Perry, Dorothy, Nicole we just have to go on and keep good memories of Andrew with us always. Love

  7. Jim Fennell

    I have come to realize over time and through working with literally dozens of bereaved parents that everyone looks at this differently. For me, almost seven years after losing my beautiful daughter, nothing compares to the first year. Each year is tough in its own way but I can not stress enough the importance of keeping an open mind toward healing. Healing DOES NOT mean forgetting or dishonoring their memory. Healing is moving on in their honor. They are always with us.

    1. Colette Seguin-Palmer

      What you said really rings true for me. It will be 7 years for us that we lost our daughter.

      “Each year is tough in its own way but I can not stress enough the importance of keeping an open mind toward healing. Healing DOES NOT mean forgetting or dishonoring their memory. Healing is moving on in their honor. They are always with us.”

      Thank you

  8. Frank Percival

    I started balling my eyes out after reading this is so true.yes I made it through the first year but September is my 2nd year start also and it hurts now more than ever that the realization that my son son is gone forever.i will survive though because of what CHRIST PROMISED us that those who believe in him as the true resurrected son of GOD that I will be reunited with my boy and there will be no more sorrow or pain or crying or dying.this is my strength.

  9. Tammy

    I lost my only child, my daughter 3 years ago. She was in a single car accident in October. She would turn 17 in November. Being so close to the holidays, they were all a blur to me. Needless to say the 2nd year was just a s hard maybe harder to go through the holidays again without Danielle being a part of them. Now, just getting past the 3rd year, it seemed even more difficult. I have to assume it’s because the reality and finality of the loss is finally setting in. My heart goes out to your entire family, for life as we know it has changed forever…..

  10. Sarah

    I am so sorry you all have to live through this. It is the most terrible pain of all. We are in year 4 and I remember each all too well. For me, year two was so very difficult – not only had the protective fog lifted, but for that first year I had the gift of “this time last year.” I was comforted to know that “this time last year” I was doing this or that with Shane…… Year two the “this time last year” was only that Shane was gone. It was almost like losing him all over again except this time through without the numbness and shock. It most definitely does not get easier – I hate that people say that. Each and every milestone of his friends – graduations, births, weddings, etc are reminders of events he will never experience.

  11. Kathy J

    Thank you Perry — your words express what many of our parents have talked about at our meetings… when the blessed numbness wears off and the stark reality hits, the pain goes deeper into our hearts… how fortunate we are to have each other to lean on…

  12. Roberta

    Perry I am here to tell you I hate all of this. The second year was definitely the most difficult. But again, they are all very difficult. This group saved my soul in the beginning as I had people with the same story (different words) to lean on. Hopefully you all will be able to come to a meeting.

  13. Don Begier

    Thank you. We are only four months into this journey but I know this will be helpful as we cross over the anniversary date on September 1st this year.

  14. anna giorgianni

    I’m in my 2nd year starting this month. Josephine died on December 15th. She died in her sleep at a so called friends house. I felt like I was in shock for I don’t know months, then her 21st birthday came in march, mother’s day, etc. Everyday it’s painful, I miss her 10pm phone call each night. This Christmas that passed I got out on ny because I couldn’t bear another Christmas without her. I stand everything Christmas in ny. Being with my family in Sicily helped but as soon as I came home, I realized I’m going to have to deal with missing her the rest of my days and most days I truly wish I was with her. when I lost my mom at the age of twelve, after a number of years, I learned that you have to live life to the fullest because you don’t know when your time is coming. Having Josephine, I lived life vicariously thru her. I got to do things with her that I didn’t have in my own childhood. I’m greatful for that and I’ll always have those precious memories but for me I can’t understand life at all! Of course there is no answer, I’m saddened for everyone who has experienced the loss of a child, it’s just so painful that my heart with be forever broken. People say in time it will get better but I really can see that happening in my opinion, not with this loss of my only child.

  15. Bill

    Thanks for sending the blog. It’s painful reading but I’m grateful you’ve sent it. The closest I’ve come to that is when my dad died However that was nowhere near the same, as for him it was a release from Alzheimer. None the less we miss him but I can see a child is so much more painful. I’m not articulate enough to tell you how I’m feeling but your blog brings tears to me and I want to thank you and hope you reach a place where the pain isn’t as great.


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