When two is not the charm: my second year of bereavement

"Wiser heads warned me that the second year of bereavement may well be harder than the first – and so far they have been right," reflects blogger Richard Littledale, who recently passed the anniversary of his wife Fiona's death. With New Year on his mind, he ponders what lies ahead. 

Foot prints in the desert
"Looking out along the road of a freshly hatched New Year, the landscape is featureless with no obvious monuments to break up the view. Across it stretches a road just wide enough for one, and I have hefted my pack to walk along it. "
Richard and Fiona Littledale at the seaside
Richard with his late wife Fiona, who spent her last weeks under the care of their local Sue Ryder Hospice at Home team.

One of the many letters I received when Fiona died contained an entirely unintentional contradiction. In the body of the text, the writer said that ‘people say time is a healer, but that is not true’. Later on, however, she signed off with the words: ‘Time is a great healer’.

It may simply have been momentary confusion – or it may reflect the profound contradictions that drive the weather patterns in the land of grief.

Wiser heads warned me that the second year of bereavement may well be harder than the first – and so far they have been right.

The landscape of that first year is, of course, littered with milestones.  Those first 365 days may have millstones erected over everything from final diagnosis to birthdays, Christmas and wedding anniversary. I have passed by them all. 

Like any milestone – you can see them as you approach up the road and brace yourself for them.

The road ahead

In the second year, though – those milestones are smaller. They lurk, rather than loom, now.

Looking out along the road of a freshly hatched New Year, the landscape is featureless with no obvious monuments to break up the view. Across it stretches a road just wide enough for one, and I have hefted my pack to walk along it.

When I get up close, I shall surely see the milestones, and stop to reflect beside them – but they no longer define the road. On some days, I have a feeling that I shall wish they did. Distances look bigger when there is nothing to break up the miles.

“A landscape without landmarks is not a landscape without beauty”

One of the last big trips that Fiona and I made together was to the Middle East. 

For two days, we stayed in a beautiful resort accommodated in an old fort in the desert. Descriptions of the desert as featureless, though, do not do it justice. 

The absence of landmarks simply means that you appreciate the undulating dunes and the spectacular sunsets all the more.

A landscape without landmarks is not a landscape without beauty.

I am counting on it…

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Blog author

Richard Littledale

Husband of patient

Richard Littledale

Richard's wife Fiona was cared for by Sue Ryder Hospice at Home Nurses during the last few weeks of her life. Since then, he has been chronicling his journey through grief via his personal blog http://richardlittledale.me.uk.