“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.