Woman standing alone in the light amougst dark crowded busy street; grief is lonely

It has been 1 year, 5 months, 9 days and 16 hours since you died. And I’m still waiting for it to get easier, for the grief to ease. Today is your brother’s anniversary and the pain I feel for my aunty and cousins is just about unbearable. Because I know they still feel like I do and have for 5 years. They’re still waiting for it to get easier.

It surprised me to hear recently that grief in the second year is supposed to be the hardest. It surprised me because everyone used to tell me it was the ‘firsts’ that you need to get through to be ‘ok’. But now I realise the second year is harder than the first.

The first year is full of family, friends and unlimited support and understanding from the people around you. Someone asks how you are with that empathetic look in their eye asking you how you are at your soul level. It’s real, it’s genuine and it’s exactly what you need to hear – that someone else understands or acknowledges the deep and dire pain that you endure every day. I’ve always been someone to have a few close friends rather than a lot of acquaintances but during that first year, it seemed that everyone was a close friend, looking out for me and my emotions. How wonderful these human beings are to care so deeply about me when I was suffering to my core.

This second year is different.

This year I miss you and crave you like never before because I’ve gone a whole year without talking to you about everyday things, about Dexter and parenting, about life and the trivial crap that goes on in it. I’ve not heard about your trips, about your students, about the new babies that have been born or the people you have lost. For a whole year.

I’ve gone through the firsts, with that amazing support around me, but the seconds… the seconds everyone forgets. I don’t blame them. In most ways I’m glad they don’t remember that I’m celebrating my birthday without you – the one who gave birth to me. I don’t blame them for not wanting to talk about my deep loss. It very well may stir up something that didn’t need to be stirred up. I honestly don’t blame them at all. They were there when I needed them most and I’ll be forever grateful.

But now I suffer in silence. I suffer in silence every day because I still miss you as much today as that first day. Because I don’t want to bring people down if they knew how much I suffered. I’m ashamed that my child sees me cry and asks if I miss Nanna and 9.5 times out of 10 he is right. Because the rest of the world has moved on. Because the rest of the world is suffering in their own, unique ways. And because if people knew how I was feeling every day and supported me through it, there’d be no time for anything else.

Now I find times to process my grief and write about it when I’m not impacting those around me. Now it’s almost a routine: I start crying, Kim notices and ensures Dexter doesn’t disturb me while I write and cry. He allows me to find space to feel and cry on my own. Not because I want to hide my grief, not because I don’t feel like it’s valid. But because my journey through grief is long. Far, far longer than those around me need to know about. Far longer than those who have not lost a parent (or a child, close friend…) would ever dream about.

The worst part is knowing you were the one who’d support me years later as you did for my auntie. You called her every week for years until you couldn’t any longer. You knew her grief and suffering continued long after the flowers and cards stopped coming in. It seems ironic that the person who would get this the most is the one I am grieving.

So on the anniversary of your little brother, I’m feeling for those left behind. For those who suffer every day, like me, keeping it to themselves. And together, we’ll wait for the day it finally gets easier.

Grief: still waiting
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Phillipa Huynh

Phillipa, a kinesiologist working in Park Orchards and Thornbury, Victoria, teaches you how to make your life ‘fit’ again. A big believer in positive change, Phillipa teaches you how to understand your past so you can map your future.