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Each Year Is Different: How My Grief Has Transformed Over Time

February 19, 2018

My son’s life began and ended within a week during the month of February, four years ago. Each year around this time, the memorialized span of the week elicits a personal outpouring of emotions, but to say that each year has felt similar would be untrue.

In the early days after knowing and then losing him, I remember being hungry: hungry for information, for explanation, for consolation, hungry to feel something other than endlessly desperate for a different life than the one I was currently living without him.

During a late-night deep dive into the Internet’s extensive accounts of loss, I found an article a mother had written about her first five years after losing an infant. Each year was marked with a vignette about her body, emotional stability, her yearning and how they changed as time passed. I wiped away tears while reading her story, with the recognition that the possibility to feel different over time did exist, although my unrelenting grief weighed heavier than hope at that moment.

Related: Three Years Later and I Still Miss You

The funny thing about time is that it does go on. It trudges along whether we want it to or not. It is cruel in that we continue moving slowly beyond the time we knew our babies; the blissful time we carried them, when we brimmed with hope over our future lives together, behind us. But time is also forgiving, as it has softened the sharpest, most jagged emotions of grief into duller, more blunt tools of remembrance. In a way, the blurriness that accompanies time makes the ongoing days more manageable and renders those who have experienced loss less susceptible to being overwhelmed by heavy waves of sadness when they inevitably occur.

The first anniversary was a culmination of the prior year’s figurative fog. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know it would be so hard. Throughout the year, I had moments of clarity when I imagined a grand, celebratory event to honor his short life and its impact on our family, friends, and community. But the energy to do that was lost each time the reality of his loss set back in, as if a cloud set up recurring residence over my head. I felt perpetually damp.

By the second anniversary, I had begun to gain strength and regain momentum. Life was no longer just about survival amid grief—it was also about the very physically real survival of our second son. Despite navigating childcare amid tepid feelings about motherhood, I was determined to finally honor my son with some iteration of what I had previously imagined. But when my living child fell seriously ill during the production of the memorial project, it felt like the universe’s way of calling me back to the present, telling me to focus on the person I did have to hold in my arms.

Related: {10 Years Later} Trying to Remember

The third anniversary crept up unexpectedly and sat sedately on my conscience. I wanted to simultaneously scream its arrival to the skies and burrow into a hole to hibernate the week away. Unlike the years before it, where survival and purpose felt paramount, I felt little except genuinely sad for the fast-forwarding of time without him.

This year, as both his birthday and death anniversary approach, I am feeling less hungry. It goes without saying that nothing and no one will ever sate me to the point of forgetfulness. I remember it all. But I remember him with a peacefulness I wasn’t previously capable of, and a poignancy I didn’t know was possible.

Photo by Iwan Lune’ on Unsplash




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    Katie Colt

    Katie Colt is a writer, songwriter, musician, and mother. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Mommy Nearest, and most recently at Kveller, as a 2017 Writing Fellow. Katie lives near Chicago, IL with her husband and son.

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