by Risa Green


It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been a year since my father died. In some ways, it flew by, just like every other year seems to these days. But in other ways, it went excruciatingly slow as I tried to process what happened, to make sense of it all, and to try to come to peace with it. I can’t say that I’ve succeeded at all of those things quite yet, but I’m getting there.


In the weeks just after his death, I remember asking some of my friends who have lost parents how they ever got through it. How were they ever again able to get through a single day without crying? How were they ever again able to think about anything else? I got a lot of different answers, but they all boiled down to the same thing: it gets easier. And it does. I don’t cry every day any more, and my father’s death isn’t the very first thing I think of when I wake up. One friend who lost her mother said that the emotions she feels are no less intense than the day her mom died, she just thinks about it less. And I’ve found that to be true as well. It’s still not easy. But it is, you know, easier.


The thing about getting through an entire year, though, is that you learn what to expect. The first year after losing someone close to you is fascinating in a way, because you see what reminds you of your loved one in a way that you just can’t when they’re alive. For example, Passover reminds me of my father because he used to make his own horseradish, and during the Seder every year he and my uncle would have contests to see whose face would turn redder from eating it. Even though my father and I hadn’t spent Passover together in years, I’m sure I always smiled at the thought of it when I put horseradish on the Seder plate. But this past Passover, just buying the horseradish at the market made me burst into tears. And so now I know for next year that I should expect to get teary when I buy horseradish. I also now know to expect it when I’m roasting pumpkin seeds at Halloween, or when I’m making a kugel at Rosh Hashanah, or when the tooth fairy comes to visit our house (when I would accuse him of being the tooth fairy, he’d say who are you calling a fairy? Not so PC my father, but still…). The first time I did all of those things I was shocked at how upset they made me. The tears came out of left field, totally unexpected. But that’s what’s great about getting through that first year; you learn what triggers the memories, and so you’re not so surprised when you start to cry in the horseradish aisle. Knowing that it’s going to happen doesn’t make the feelings go away, but they do make it, you know, easier.


My husband tells me that in time, the triggers will eventually become something I look forward to, instead of something that I dread. His father died twenty years ago, and he says that he hardly ever thinks about him anymore. So when an opportunity does arise for him to think about his dad, it makes him happy to remember. I’m looking forward to getting to that place someday. It seems, you know, easier.


My brother died, the 5 year (FIVE! YEARS!) anniversary is a week from today actually. This was exactly my experience with the first year though. The second year is much easier because you know what to expect, and I didn't feel quite so filled with dread about every holiday, birthday and anniversary. And it's true, you think about it less. In the first year, I showed up to work with swollen crying eyes more days than I care to think about, because I cried almost every morning in the car. Now my biggest problem is actually that I don't think about him -enough-. Sometimes it's almost like he never existed. So many things have changed since then, the people I know now never knew him or never knew me when I had two brothers - that's the next phase of the challenge I guess. Thinking of you for year two and the years to come.


My mother died a year ago, and I completely agree with the fact that the feelings are no less intense -they're just come along less. Sometimes, especially on holidays and special occasions, when I'm watching my two boys, I think my heart is going to explode and I'm going to completely flip out because she's not here to enjoy them too. I've also been surprised at exactly what makes me burst into tears as well. I know it does get easier -it has already -but even at a year I feel like I'm still in the midst of the grieving process.


I'm looking forward to the easier time, too. I lost both parents in the past 2 years. Double whammies all over the place - just when and where you least expect it. Like when reading a parenting website....


My mom passed 7 yrs ago and I swear it feels like yesterday sometimes... she was relatively young, only 53 and I now mark the years of her passing with birthdays my children celebrate... knowing she died the year my son was born, never to have met him. It gets easier for sure, but just when you think you have it handled, BAM, something - like horseradish gets you and you are back where you were on day one. I cherish that I still have that ache for my mom, cause it reminds me that she will always be with me and will always be loved.