The Second Year

November 1, 2016


Today marks the second year. Two years ago I woke up and everything was normal. Just a couple hours into the day I checked my phone and it was chaos. Messages and missed calls and voicemails – voicemails, for fucks sake – and so I started calling people back, and then, with no warning, like the craziest plot twist of all time, you died. Of course, you were dead already, and had been since the early hours of the morning, but those frantic ten minutes of calling and checking was when you died for me.

This time last year I still felt very raw and confused. I don’t think the shock of you dying properly left me until last December. People talk about the five stages of grief, but I had just two of them (denial and depression) for the whole year. I spent most of the first year without you trying very hard to forget. Trying very hard to keep moving and do things and block things and keep things away. At the time, I thought this was moving on, and recovering, which is what most people seemed to be doing. I remember in the summer, friends saying “you just need to move on!” by turns desperate, angry and upset. I don’t think I really did until the winter.

The anniversary of your death marked a huge turning point for me. I didn’t think grief would work that way, but it did. The whole first year was a mess. One year ago I met your parents for brunch, and in the single moment your dad said “we’ve survived”, I just saw that year flash by me, messy and grim. I thought I was fine but I wasn’t. I really wasn’t. It was a hard year, a tough year, a necessary but awful year.

This second year has been so different. This year has been like a warm hug. A sigh of relief. The second year was kind. It is strange how things can be so unknown, and yet I am also so at ease. I feel like I have done almost nothing since you died, and yet things are very different. I am different. I am calm and tired and loyal and structured and reclusive. I am worried about my own musicality, and a careful(ish) driver, and a mostly cautious drinker. I was none of those things when you were alive. I was none of those things this time last year either, not really.


I don’t know if it’s easier now or if we’re just more used to it. I thought our group would just close in together and fill the gap where you were, but there’s still a gap. We just acknowledge it less. The group itself is different; there are partners, children, dogs and cats and giant snails. I guess it would have changed anyway as we grew older even if you hadn’t died. It’s hard sometimes to separate the normal growing-up bits from the death bits, but it’s not as painful a wound as it was. I guess you just adapt? I thought I was done writing about you – I hoped I was, actually. I imagine people reading my posts about you and thinking “oh fucking shut up and get over it, people die all the time”, which is true, so true, but… I started writing and here we are.

So, I don’t know what’s changed this year, really. James and Danilo and I are all in relationships, which I suppose is great but it’s also really fucking weird. Even just a couple years ago it would have been unacceptable not to speak to each weekly; now it is the norm. The four of us were the least romantically successful rhythm section in history. I remember you and Nilo moaning about how the strings – the fucking strings – were getting more action. And now look at us. I like to imagine that wherever the fuck you are, you’ve met somebody too? It’s a ridiculous thought and I feel stupid admitting it, but there’s a part of me that imagines it sometimes anyway. Normally in dreams when I’m asleep. I don’t know why my brain does that. I think it’s just too cruel otherwise, the timing of it. And I hate the idea that wherever you are, you’re alone.

In my weakest moments, you pop up in my dreams and we are sat in the pub down the road from yours. Remember, like we sometimes did after teaching? In my dreams I imagine explaining the current circumstances. How am I still in the same house but the other rooms have changed hands about 10 times. How WOLF PACK just collapsed without you; some of us still speak but it seems too complex to stoke the fire properly again. Too much. How Quizcats actually worked. It actually worked! It could be doing better but it’s not completely failed.

I imagine telling you about how I live with my boyfriend now, a person you won’t meet. He’s both lankier and taller than you, although obviously less ginger. I often wonder if you would like him. You were always so dismissive of whoever I was seeing, but then again so was I, so maybe you were just following my lead? I’ll never truly know. I imagine you leaning back and laughing and then I say, anyway, what about you, what have you been up to? Where are you living now, what are you working on? Your face lights up, and you start to tell me and I feel so happy that you’re safe and you’re ok. And there is that weird moment where I’m half waking up and realising and half still asleep next to Ryan and it is just safe and happy and warm. And if I can feel like that despite these long, strange, different days, I know that things are getting better, and the third year will be even kinder than the second.

Previous posts on Pete:  1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

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14 comments so far.

14 responses to “The Second Year”

  1. I’m sorry for your loss. Today (Nov. 1) would have been my aunt’s birthday. She died many years ago. I do still miss her.

  2. Natasha says:

    This is a beautiful and raw post Laila and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crying after having finished reading this. I could feel how personal this was and the emotions you must have been going through writing this. Loss is awful, and when it is someone who is so close to you and means so much, it can leave such a lasting impression and sometimes it can feel like no matter how much time passes, it won’t feel any different, but I really do hope that the third year is far kinder to you and that you are doing OK, and I am sending you big hugs across the internet at the moment! Thank you for sharing this. <3 – Tasha

  3. Natasha says:

    This is such a raw and beautiful post Laila and I won’t pretend that I wasn’t crying by the end of it. Loss is such an awful and complex thing, and sometimes it feels like no matter how much time passes, it won’t ever feel the same again, but it’s comforting to read that this year has been a little better for you and your friends. Thank you for sharing this with us and I do honestly hope that the third year will truly be a kinder one for you, and I am sending you big hugs across the internet! <3 – Tasha

  4. Natasha says:

    Ahhh, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t sure if it submitted my first comment so apologies for the similarity! – Tasha

  5. Dear Laila, I don’t believe that people, reading your posts about your friend’s death, will say “shut up, people die all the time”. Cause if they do, they are not your friends, sorry to think this way, my humble opinion. I heard that when my parents died within a short time, I had to fly in hurry, otherwise I wouldn’t meet my mum, days after my dad was gone. And yet, the 5 steps of grief, I didn’t know them like that, but on the first level I hear from people that “people die all the time” (I wrote about it last Monday, finally). But then they are not your friends. I totally understand what you feel and I am glad you talk about it and that you have the warm memories that you have. True, we can never call and share stories anymore, but it’s good that you knew him – that’s what I tend to think these days. Celebrate people’s lives, and by writing about him you are doing so. All my support to you, Laila, your friend fulfilled his mission in this world – that’s what someone told me, that when we miss someone so much, it’s a sign that the person fulfilled the mission, towards us. He was special, for sure. Hugs, Laila, hope your day today is bright, despite all.

  6. bluerosegirl08 says:

    I still write about friends who died all the time,you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.

  7. Jane says:

    This is beautiful, Laila. I can’t even imagine how losing a friend would feel, thoughts are with you <3

  8. kikyohatake says:

    Ah this is beautiful. Got me crying and ish. I’m glad you were able to get through it at your own pace and able to remember him and be like “yo? You good?”

  9. It seems like you’ve found your peace again after losing him, if that makes sense. When I made a similar post about being okay for the first time on the third anniversary of losing my mum, somebody said that to me and it made total sense. Yes I still love and miss her, and at times it still hurts terribly, but I’ve found an inner tranquil that allows me to say, “you know what, I can survive this now”. I’m glad you got there sooner than I did <3

    Tore | xo

  10. Mili says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss 🙁 I’m glad that the loss is getting easier to deal with. Hopefully the next year is even better 🙂

  11. Laila, we never stop thinking about those who left too early. Every year that goes by is one more year gone without them. But living happily, enjoying the moment, taking those people with us when we’re doing something we think they might have enjoyed too, is what makes it easier.
    You’re doing good. Everybody needs time to live through the pain and loss. Take it easy.
    Best thoughts,


  12. This was really emotional for me to read. I haven’t had to go through a lot of loss in my life but what I have gone through has really opened my eyes up to this whole other world that I used to be blissfully unaware about.

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