The Five Major Challenges We Face During the Second Year of Grief

The challenges we face during the first year after the death of a life mate/soul mate (or any other significant person), are too great to enumerate. It’s all we can do to cope with the seemingly endless chores of laying our beloved to rest while dealing with the emotional shock, the physical pain, the psychological affront. Sometimes the first anniversary of his death is one of peace when we realize that we managed to survive the worst year of our life, but then we wake up to the second year and find a whole other set of challenges to meet.

These seem to be the five major challenges to face during the second year of grief:

1. Trying to understand where he went. We can understand that he is out of our lives (even though we don’t like it), but we cannot understand his total goneness from this earth. No matter what we do, how we feel, or what we believe, it doesn’t change the fact that he is dead. And there is nothing we can do about it.

2. Living without him — we can do it, we’ve proved that during the past months, but we still have a problem figuring out why we would want to.

3. Dealing with continued grief bursts. Though we do okay most of the time, and though we fulfill our daily responsibilities quite capably, upsurges of grief still hit us, sometimes right on schedule (such as my sadder Saturdays), and sometimes for no reason at all. Sometimes they last for days (such as the upsurge of grief most of us felt this New Year’s Eve) and sometimes they last for mere minutes. But always, just when we think we can handle it, grief returns and we feel as if he just died.

4. Finding something to look forward to rather than simply existing. The second years seems to be a limbo, a time of waiting though we don’t seem to be waiting for anything. We’re just . . . waiting.

5. Handling the yearning. So many people who try to explain grief get it wrong. It’s not about going through five or seven or ten stages of grief. It’s about yearning for one more smile, one more word, one more hug from the person who was everything to us. The first year of yearning was hard, but somehow many of us had the strange idea that this was some sort of test and that after we passed the test, he’d pop back into our lives and we’d go on as before. Well, now we know this is no test. It’s the real thing. And there is nothing protecting us from that great clawing yearning.

Making a list is easy. Meeting the challenges of the second year of grief is hard, but maybe we succeed simply by living, by dealing with each day as it comes.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.