Second Spring

March 20, 2023 — the first day of Spring

Dear Valerie,

I went for a walk this morning, along what was one of our favorite routes, especially this time of the year. I saw camellias and narcissus and hellebores blooming, and one tree covered in tiny pale lavender-pink blossoms. For the Pacific Northwest, where people are often out cutting their grass in February, spring does seem to be coming slowly this year, which is fine with me. Several weeks ago (probably around Groundhog Day, now that I think about it), I realized that I was approaching the second spring since you died. And I’m really not ready for this.

There’s something about having gone through four complete seasons without you that makes this new spring even harder. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it has something to do with the conventional idea of a year of mourning; will there be an expectation that I am now “over it”, when there is no getting over your loss? Will people assume I’m now “back to normal”, when I can’t go back, and I don’t even know what normal means any more?

Spring in general seems to be synonymous with renaissance, a season of renewal, growth, change — all of which come with unknowns. Maybe that’s why it feels like I have even more questions than usual lately, and even fewer answers. If any at all.

Since you and I have both been Agatha Christie fans for a long time, you will probably recognize “second spring” as the title for the section of her autobiography that came just after her beloved mother had died, shortly after which her first husband left her with no warning. She described this period as “a year I hate recalling”. (I can relate.) For me, the phrase “second spring” evokes fresh starts, reinvention, transformation, especially at a point in life where one may have thought such things were no longer possible. But now, since losing you, the idea of a second spring in my own life brings up another conundrum to add to my list: simultaneous anxiety (“What will I do now?”) and hope (“Can I be open to anything now?”).

In the spring of 2022, which came only weeks after you died, I could barely go out the door. Seriously. Just going to the grocery store was so stressful that I would be exhausted for the next few days. (The difficulty of grocery shopping when grieving is something I wish more people knew about. I’m not sure if this only applies to bereaved parents, or to anyone who has lost anyone or anything, but it’s something I never would have guessed at, before losing you.) It wasn’t until much later in the year that I started feeling slightly more comfortable about even just taking a walk around the neighborhood. So I probably missed a lot of the typically beautiful spring sights and sounds, except for what I could see on the deck. I don’t usually take a phone or camera with me when walking, so I have relatively few photos from last spring.

(I originally wrote “As you know” at the beginning of that last sentence, then deleted it. I also changed “our deck” to “the deck” in the previous sentence. These moments, the ones when I realize certain phraseology is no longer appropriate, are some of the hardest. It’s incredibly difficult even to think of your cat, our apartment, our neighborhood, as now being only mine. This is just one more way in which losing you affects me every day, moment to moment.)

As I’m outside a little more now than last year at this time, I’m happy just to be able to notice and appreciate the early flowers and the fresh wind that, at least this morning, carries a promise of warmer temperatures. And I’m wondering if getting through my first full winter without you is in itself a sign of hope. Last fall, I truly did not know if or how I could physically survive all those holidays and anniversaries from November through what would have been your fortieth birthday on February 25th, just a few weeks ago. It has been one of the darkest periods of my entire life, especially getting through the holidays you loved so much, and I still don’t know, today, if there really is any light ahead. I’m trying to believe in that possibility.

And now, on the first day of Spring 2023, how am I feeling? What am I thinking about? Am I any closer to answers to those or all the other questions that have been surfacing over the last year? In the letter I wrote to you on the first anniversary of your passing, I mentioned becoming more and more conscious of this sense of “not-knowing-ness”, and how I have been working towards being more comfortable with not having answers. Definitely a work in progress — but at least there is some progress.

It just occurred to me to look at some notes I made last year, when Spring 2022 was on its way. Here’s what I wrote on February 21, 2022:

Today it is 3 weeks since Valerie died. It is still so horrible every time I even think those words, let alone write them down — when the words are visible, I have to think they are more real, more true, but it still feels just so utterly wrong to me — it cannot be true that Valerie died. So much about this seems to involve contradictions — I know she died, I was there and saw it happen, but she can’t be dead! How can this be? Will I ever be able to accept this as truth? I don’t know. Right now it seems impossible. I have to believe it but it’s impossible to believe it.

Clearly my questions had already begun, and the duality I’ve noticed more and more over the past four seasons had also started making its presence felt. It’s odd that, even though I’ve been aware for a long time that it’s in my nature to question things (that’s the curiosity-to-creativity process at work, at least for me), I don’t know that it ever occurred to me that sometimes answers just are not possible. Don’t we just keep trying stuff until we figure it out?

In this case, it can’t be “figured out”. It just… is.

But I’m still here, I’m alive, and although the excruciatingly painful grief never really leaves me, the question of “What now?” is starting to loom larger. What can my life look like without you? Am I ready to think about that yet? Do I have yet another fresh start in me, especially following a loss this devastating? Can I even begin to imagine that losing you could open up possibilities that have never before occurred to me?

Could hope be that place where renewal, reinvention, transformation are possible?

I guess the fact that I can even type the word “hope” is something significant. I think those questions are all too big for me today, but I have so many more, like where are you now, Valerie? Do you know, are you somehow aware of how much I miss you? Can you see how much pain I’m in because you’re gone? Does all my love still have a place with you, or does it only exist in my broken heart and shattered soul?

So many questions. And I feel incredibly far away from you… Your way of thinking was quite different from mine, so I relied on your great good sense and practical wisdom whenever I was floundering. But this last year, for these four-plus seasons without you, everything has seemed so empty, dark, and cold…

This will be my second spring without you, Valerie, and I still don’t feel very close to any answers. But, like the softer wind I felt this morning, maybe, just maybe, I’m getting a little warmer.

With all my love,


This letter was originally published on March 20, 2023, on, here.

I’ve recently started a YouTube channel to share memories of my daughter Valerie, as well as following my own grieving process. Some of the videos will be illustrated readings of the letters I’ve been writing to Valerie; I’ll add an update here when the video version of today’s letter is ready. I’d love it if you’d visit me on YouTube.

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