Whenever I meet someone who’s just completed their second year of grieving, I ask the same question: “Was the second year harder than you expected?” I’m almost always told yes.
As Mike and I navigated all the milestones that came in the initial twelve months following Madeline’s death, we always said to ourselves, “We survived that one. It won’t be this hard again.” There was an expectation that it would get easier to live with this gaping hole.
I also think we were surrounded by a cushion of shock in the first year. In the second year, the disbelief was gone…but the pain wasn’t. I remember saying to my therapist, “Everyone said it was going to get easier. It isn’t easier at all! Some days I think it’s actually harder!” I was mad. That second year of grieving was so difficult: the numbness was gone and reality had set in.
Jackie died two years ago yesterday. I knew this second year of grieving her absence was going to be difficult but it still hit me hard. The urge to call her hasn’t gone away. I want to hear her laugh and get her advice. I leaned on her a lot, and sometimes I feel like I’m tipping without her. She got into the craziest situations and told the best stories. When I think about all the things she wanted in life, all of her dreams…it cuts me to the bone.
Grieving for Jackie is so different than grieving for Maddie, yet in my mind they are entwined: both always in my thoughts, both influencing me daily. I love them differently, but fiercely, and I would not be who I am today without them. I hate that they’re gone.
Before we drove home from our weekend with Mike’s family, we stopped to visit Jackie’s mom. It had been far too long – it was her first time meeting James. I showed the kids Mrs. O’s teddy bear collection, something Jackie had always lovingly teased her mother about. The kids played with toys while we hugged and talked, and as I watched James I thought about how hard it is for me to watch Maddie’s friends grow without her. I wondered if Jackie’s mom sometimes feels the same way when she sees the children of her daughter’s friends grow. Jackie really wanted to be a mother.
I feel a bit of relief that I survived the hard second year of missing her, guilt over that relief, and sadness that she’s two years gone. Jackie’s family generously gave me some of her things, so I will spend some time touching the things she held in her hands, thinking about how she touched my life, wishing she was still by my side.
You know, I have never met you and I never met Jackie, but I have been following you forever – since right after Maddie was born. ANYWAY, I was scrolling thru Facebook, and saw a picture and thought, “That looks like Jackie!” And then I chuckled. Because, how cool that because of the internet, I knew immediately that was a picture of Heather’s best friend and I felt a little sad upon seeing her. I suppose I’m telling you this to let you know that you made Jackie so real to me that I know the world misses her and I hope that maybe you can smile some and bring you a tiny measure of comfort. Thank you for sharing her with us.
(also, gosh, that is just barely coherent, but it’s 3 AM and I should have been in bed a very long time ago. So, so sorry!)
Love you!! Love Jackie!
Such a beautiful girl. Glad you have some of her things. Hope her family is doing as best as they can
Glad you got to spend time with your dear friend’s mother. I’m sure that meant a lot to her.
That is a beautiful picture of Jackie!
Sending you and Jackie’s family loving hugs of comfort. It’s never easy nor fair to live without someone so dear and special to one’s heart and soul!
I am 3 months into my grief and some days it’s easier to talk about my brother while other days the grief is so suffocating that I think I will pass out.
You are a good friend, Heather. Jackie is lucky.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Margie.
What a beautiful picture of Jackie! Thank you for your continued honesty about the process of grieving — you are helping others who may not have the words to express what they’re going through. Hugs to you at a tough time.
Oh, Heather, I can tell you know, but I couldn’t the day you came by. I loved getting to see Annie and finally meet James and of course see you and Mike. Thank you so much for the visit. I have to admit it’s hard to see and hear about what’s happening in Jackie’s friend’s lives. It is tough to deal with what is not to be. I still don’t understand it and I know we never will. I swear that if I hear “It’s God’s Plan” one more time I’ll scream. Now, having said all of that, I’m so happy that you all send me messages and that I can hear about all of your lives. Please don’t ever stop. I love you Heather and Mike.
I hope I’m not intruding but wanted you to know that we are all so very sorry for the loss of your Jackie. The picture of her is stunningly beautiful. Not only her obvious physical gorgeousness but also her joy and spirit can’t be contained by the two dimensional photo. Wishing you love and peace.
Gail Okeson says:
I am so sorry Heather.
Debbie A-H says:
Sending love to you and her family.
Thinking of sweet Jackie and you as your friendship is so dear. Much love on yet another annivesary.
I love that I feel like I know Jackie, even though I have never met her, because of the way you talk about her. She was beautiful, inside and out. I’m so sorry for your loss…
Beautiful post. It’s so evident how much you love and miss your friend. 100% agree on the 2nd year being worse than the first. For me, the first year is that head-down, get through it. By the second, time is starting to pass, things are moving on and changing and that person is gone. Hope you are able to find peace in your memories.
Love and hugs.
I can say from having lost a good friend over a decade ago that the memories do not fade, but the pain eases. Words like “gets easier” don’t really belong in a description of grief because they come with an expectation that one size fits all. I think the grieving process for each person is different.
My thoughts and prayers are with you,
Maddie, Jackie and her family. So far there has not been any easy year since my child/children died. I agree with you the 2nd (both times) was worse bc as you wrote the shock wore off and friends/family went back to their lives (as they should). The third thru 8th (for Jake) and 4th (for Sawyer) have not been easier – just different.
I have learned to expect certain days and events will be harder than others. I react (or don’t react) to things people say to me differently.
“The hardest thing I have ever heard is that my child died. The hardest thing I have ever done is live every day since that moment.”
Sending lots of hope and hugs. xo
Sending continued love to you today and always. xoxo
Beautiful Jackie! So sorry Heather!
Donna P says:
I lost my closest friend to cancer in September 2013. It’s coming up on a year already. I can still hear her voice whenever I allow myself to think about her – something that is very hard for me to do without tearing up. Nevertheless, she is always in my thoughts. She, like your Jackie, was beautiful with sparkling (blue) eyes and such a lovely smile. I miss her so much. My heart goes out to you, Heather. I was hoping it would get easier, but maybe it just doesn’t.
I’m sorry to hear about your friend, Donna.
I have been following your posts since shortly after Maddie died, I can’t even begin to tell you my feelings but I’ve cried with you and laughed with you, couldn’t wait to see pictures and stories after Annie and James were born. I rarely post any comments but reading your blog is one of the first things I do in the mornings, sometimes during the night when I’m dealing with my insomnia. This post today was gut wrenching, seeing the picture of Jackie again, feeling your grief and Jackie’s mother’s grief. My Dad is 83 and is my best friend, I’m his care taker and basically all he has since all the others are out of the area. It scares me so much, the thought of losing him. I don’t know how someone survives it, right now the thought of it all makes me cry. I lost my first baby, also a preemie who lived 2 weeks, and I lost my Mom 18 months ago and both were very hard but I’m so connected to my Dad I honestly don’t know if I’ll survive without him. I didn’t mean to go on and on. I just wanted to thank you, I know sometimes it’s got to be tough to even do that night’s post but you do. Thank Mamacita too for posting what she did here. My heart just goes out to you both.
Hugs to you. I am so sorry you lost your child and your mom.
Your friend sounds like such an amazing person. She was so beautiful. I feel like I know her somehow, through your exquisite writing. What an honorable way to keep her memory alive.
Sending you love.
Another thing- at the risk of sounding crazy, last year our dog groomer was booked up so we had to go to someone new- I was very apprehensive. My doggies are old girls and I thought they wouldn’t take kindly to going to someone new. Luckily, the new groomer was AMAZING. Beyond sweet and gentle and patient. We adore her and will never go anywhere else. The first time we met her, I remember thinking she looked so familiar… But I couldn’t place it. She has brown hair and these beautiful blue/green eyes…. Finally I realized that she reminded me of the pictures I had seen of your dear friend, Jackie. Of course I thought I was a weirdo, for thinking someone reminded me of someone I had never even met, but then I decided it was neat that your Jackie had such a talented friend to make complete strangers feel like they knew her….
Anyway, our new beloved groomer almost let me walk out the door without catching her name that first day, but I turned around to ask so we could be sure to ask for her the next time. “Oh! My name is Jackie!” she smiled.
I think of you and your lovely, beautiful friend every time we go in. xoxo
I lost 2 of my best friends in a car crash in January 1995. I still miss them and wonder how our lives would’ve been different if they were still here. We were so young. It definitely shaped who I am today. I’m sure Jackie helped shape who you are today. You’re part of her legacy. Blessed to have special friends in our lives. ?
? not ?…
Drat! It won’t show a HEART!
I’m sorry you are living without your best friend.
Your posts and stories about Jackie! are helping to keep her memory alive. All of us who follow you “know” her through you. That is a beautiful thing about blogging. You are such a good writer and honor those you write about with your words. I enjoy that so much.
Suzanne L. says:
What a beautiful tribute to your amazing friend. I am so sorry you lost her.
I just can’t get over that she’s been gone for T W O years… F time flies. I have no doubt that she’s up in heaven with your darling little girl in her arms
Oh,Heather, I can’t believe it has been two years since your beautiful inside and out friend passed away. I am so sorry (still) for the loss of your loves.
I just wanted to tell you that because of Jackie!1 (and sweet Maddie too) I am changed. How they lived and how you wrote about it has completely changed my perspective on life. The way Jackie! lived with an exclamation point behind her name is beautiful. Thank you for telling us her story.
Thank you so much, T. That means a lot to me!
Heather, I came across a quote from Elisabeth Kubler Ross and it made me think of you. It read, ““The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” I am so sorry of the loss you’ve endured. I so appreciate and value you sharing it and helping others to both allow themselves to grieve and properly support those who are grieving. I am thankful for what I’ve learned from you, but I would give anything to change your circumstances.