‘There is a fallout from death that extends beyond the first year. Please, don’t forget us in the second.’

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“There is a fallout from death. A fallout that extends beyond the first year.

Thank you for being there for the firsts. For the first holidays, the first birthday, the first anniversary and for all those first painful moments and experiences that no person should have to bear alone.  Thank you for the cards, for the flowers, the notes, the texts, the calls and the thoughts. Thank you for your prayers as we struggled through the first of everything without him. Thank you for helping me survive.

Now, go back to your lives. Do the things that bring you happiness. Search out your passions and grab them. Love hard and love often. Take chances. Wish on dandelions and falling stars and at 11:11. Breathe in the moments with the people you love and memorize their face, and their hands, and the sound of their voice. Work diligently, achieve your goals and then go home and forget them while you watch a movie you don’t want to watch but you will because that person you love wants you to. Learn from my grief. Learn to appreciate the smallest of things and learn to forgive without reservation and love your people every single second like it might be your last chance. Yes, go live your life.

But please; please be there for the seconds. And the thirds. And every year after that. Because, we still need you. We are still lost.

Husband and wife smile in selfie before husband passed
Diana Register

My grief is not gone. My grief did not end when the first 365 days came and went. My grief is still raw. It is still painful. And it is still very present. It is still a fire that consumes my very bones.

The first few days after my husband died, everything was a blur. I woke up, I handled whatever I had to, and I went back to bed. The first few weeks after he died, I tried to figure out what normal was. I found that I hate the term, ‘the new normal,’ because there is nothing normal about this. There is nothing in my life that is normal anymore. It’s not a ‘new normal,’ it’s a new, painful reality. The first year after his death, I went through the motions and just tried to live a life that was empty in so many ways.

I do my best now to fill it up; to fill up the crevices of myself that are numb with new things. New adventures. New purpose. New goals, new hobbies, new people, yet nothing, nothing is ‘normal.’

My husband is still gone. I still look for him in crowds. I still look for something, anything that I can hold that he once did. I still yearn for his jokes, for his smile, for his silly quirks. I long to hear him snore, a sound that I didn’t love when he was alive, but one that would be a melodic masterpiece for me now.  I ache to walk out into the kitchen to see the peanut butter he left out, lid off, with a knife placed on top. Something that was so irritating to me before he died, yet I would do anything, absolutely anything to see it again.

That hunger for him did not go away in the first year. It may have quieted a bit, but it has not gone away. Yet, in a strange way, it has been replaced with the ‘what-if’s,’ instead of the searing pain of the sting of the first set of events.

In fact, as I write this, I wonder what I would be doing if he were alive. What if he was here? Would I be making dinner? Would I be dancing with him in the kitchen or laughing at one of his jokes? Would we be arguing over who was right about some silly thing? Would we be planning a vacation? Would we be passing each other in the hall, kissing goodbye as one of us left for work?

What if? What if I had pushed him to do more treatment? Something more aggressive for his cancer. What if I had talked to more doctors? What if I made him try some alternative medicine?  What if?

It’s not the fear of the firsts anymore that preoccupy us.  It’s the what-if’s.

Because as time moves on, and the fog lifts ever so slightly and clarity enters my life, these are the things that haunt me now. And, I still need you to understand. I still need you to understand that I am tired. I still need you to understand that it is hard to find joy in some things. I need you to understand that my soul is exhausted whether my body is or not. I need you to understand that some things are still hard. I need you to understand I am terrified of my future; a future that was once so beautifully predictable is now so uncertain. I need you to understand that I am anxious and I am worried and I am regretful. I am full of guilt.

Wife and husband smile in selfie on couch before husband passed away
Diana Register

I feel guilty that I survived this tragedy, even though it was what he wanted me to do. I feel guilty that he died. I feel guilty that at times, I am happy. I feel guilty that my kids don’t have him anymore, because he was the better parent. He was the better person. He was just better.

Yes, there is a fallout from death. There is a fallout from grief. And, I don’t know if it ever really goes away. I’m sure it changes, but the grieving person will never be the same. We will never be ‘normal’ again. We will be scarred, flawed and irrevocably different.

So, please. Please don’t forget us as we move on with our lives and you with yours. Please don’t forget to show up when you can, reach out when you have a minute, and sit quietly with us in our grief, even if it’s now different.

We might be OK some of the time. Heck, we might be OK most of the time. But we still need you. We still need you when the second birthday comes up. Or the second holiday. We really need you when the second anniversary comes up because we need the distraction. Because as the second, third, fourth, fifth anniversary rolls around, it will always seem like the first.

So, thank you for being there. Thank you for loving us and being patient as we figure out the process. Thank you for standing by us in the first year.

But please, don’t forget us in the second.”


This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register, 45, of Meridian, Idaho. She is in the process of creating the #iam49 foundation (149 was her husband’s badge number), to act as a ‘wish granting’ foundation for patients and their families to honor Chad’s generosity. She has been chronicling her journey with grief in a series of stories for Love What Matters:

‘With his body full of tumors, he kept working’: Wife’s tremendous grief after husband’s cancer diagnosis

‘I could barely speak’: Grieving woman struck by coffee barista’s ‘simple act of kindness’

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