Many people say the 11th month is one of the hardest of the first year of loss.
If you’ve welcomed memories of your loved one earlier in grief, you may be surprised that they feel more like an assault than a comfort this month.
There’s a heavy dose of underlining dread leading up to the one-year anniversary. You’re remembering how just last year we were doing this and this together. And how since then, EVERYTHING has changed in your world.
You begin reliving your last few weeks, days, and conversations with your beloved. You’re also dealing with these memories with a decreasing amount of shock and numbness than you were graced with in the initial weeks, so you’re feeling everything more acutely. Traumatic flashbacks increase and refuse to behave. You may feel helpless to know when and where they’ll attack.
Your children’s bodies will re-remember the trauma. So will yours.
As the grace of shock sadly decreases, sleeplessness increases.
Your body has just weathered a whole year of grief, which I am convinced is the most physically demanding thing a body can go through. It’s much harder than the 14ers I have hiked and the prolonged back labor and childbirth I’ve endured. Grief is on a whole different level of physical demands and endurance. After a year of suffering and hardship, you’re beyond exhausted, running on months of adrenaline just to get through the house fires that keep popping up.
In the 11th month leading up to the one-year anniversary of losing my husband, I found that grief shifted. The frequency between the ups and downs increased, making me feel less stable than the last couple months. And hopelessness and anger at the never-ending injustices and trials just kind of finally heaped up on me.
Here’s a small snapshot of our last 5 weeks alone:
- We received all our remaining household goods. In case you have not moved recently, that alone requires about a month of recovery. It’s exhausting work, even with your partner, and that day had it’s own added trauma.
- My in-laws and my folks came to town. They have been saving the day, non-stop.
- We unpacked all the boxes except a few full of books. I had a burst of divine strength and single-handedly unpacked the whole kitchen in ONE day. What?!? And… Woot!!
- We’ve repaired 4 major plumbing leaks, mice, and mold.
- 3 major appliances died and needed replaced. (The washing machine that dramatically blew itself apart. The refrigerator because the freezer door stopped sealing properly. The stove top that the seller’s realtor never fixed and said, “Then just sue me.” Real classy guy. Still need to replace the deep freezer that died.)
- We’ve had plumbers, construction workers, fence guys, appliance guys, and moving guys in and out of our home weekly. Which means for over a month, mama has been on extra alert.
- Constant looming flashbacks and surprising signs of post-traumatic stress.
- Our home has been a revolving door. Hosted continuous overlapping company, 9 overnight guests and 5 other out of town day-guests. A blessing and support in so many ways!!! But of course, normal routines and sleep are disrupted, and I’ve been working hard to wash sheets and serve guests as best I can.
- I had to explain over and over and over that my husband is dead and that’s why x, y, and z.
- We’ve had to deal with 2 major broken promises that our family was depending on. Financial provision and emotional support.
- The dog ran away and got lost 3 times. I guess I would too if I could. (Laugh. It’s a joke!)
- We’ve also been mocked in our grief and had people who love us hurt us.
- I finished paying my taxes, no small feat. And God provided … woot!
- Still have financial administration out my ears, fielding tons of emails daily and sending off required death certificates and social security cards. Will this ever end?
- I’ve had about 35 heavy, sticky, heartbreaking conversations.
Now that’s a lot for people who sleep at night, have a church home, a community of friends, a spouse to troubleshoot with, family nearby, and/or a home they’ve lived in for at least a few years. Add grief and the ways the soul is desperately trying to deal with the looming one-year anniversary…
It’s all too much, and yet grace is enough.
The fact that I made it through, still managing my household, loving on guests, praying for my kids, and giggling with them… This is a miracle, and it’s all grace.
The fact that I only had 2 outbursts the week of the anniversary… That’s a miracle too, and it’s all grace.
That long list is only a portion of what we’ve been through in our 11th month. And sadly, the weeks and months prior didn’t look much different. Months one through ten just include a different list of broken appliances, cracked plumbing, car troubles, betrayal, empty promises, isolation, and other huge administrative problems.
So how do we make it through seasons like this?
Here are 11 ways to Make it Through:
- Shower daily.
- Keep eating.
- Pray in your spirit in the shower, when doing dishes, when driving your car. This strengthens your inner man.
- Directly ask for prayer from others, out loud, over you.
- Get fresh air. Sit on the porch, take short walks, light hikes, relaxing bike rides.
- Be very gentle with your body. Grief is harder than hiking 14,000 foot mountains or having a baby.
- Guard your sleep. Limit screen time before bed, get blackout curtains, and take melatonin.
- Make time to feel what you need to feel. Try to journal or verbally process with a safe friend, if you have one. If you don’t, sometimes in life, Jesus really is our only friend.
- Write down highlights of the day so you don’t drown.
- Remember that good stress is still stress. So even if good things happen, give yourself extra white space to process.
- Say outloud, “We are going to make it.”
At this point in the 11th month, you may begin to feel like your support people are growing weary and distancing themselves from you. You may not have anyone cheering you on, telling you that you are doing amazing all things considered, telling you that you will make it. So learn to speak encouragement over yourself and your children.
So I tell you again. Say out loud even now, even if only a whisper, even if your bones don’t believe you. Say out loud, “We are going to make it.”