Thinking about grief in general, we tend to focus on the first year after a loss and getting through that first birthday, first Thanksgiving, first anniversary of the death. For suicide survivors nothing magical happens on day 366. It's just more of the same low slog, trying to build up a scab that will hold through the rough and tumble of daily life. For me, the next couple of years were tough.
The second year was when I actually experienced the worst set backs in my mental and physical health. I started having nightly panic attacks and it took eight months and an anti-anxiety medication to kick the habit. I probably had four emergency room trips and more illness than in the previous two decades combined. So my mind and body were a mess once the shock and numbness of the first year wore off.
The third year I struggled with a sense of ennui and lack of energy, needing to reconfigure my life and my goals, but lacking much energy for more than the basics of my existing obligations. Throughout this time I kept myself busy, really busy. Probably trying to keep one step ahead of depression, always sensing that it was waiting around in case I got complacent. And I struggled mightily with what to do with myself. I'd lost my heart for my career but didn't know what to do instead. So I took art classes because I loved that challenge and the activity was soothing and made me happy. I also worried about my kids during these years-- a lot. I worried that any little life disturbance would set them back. I watched for signs of trouble. I kept them in counseling with me as long as was feasible until there was nothing left to talk about. I took it all one day at a time.
Your path may be entirely different and you may feel that healing found you in these years. Or you may have an experience similar to mine. Just change the details. Whatever our experiences, I suspect that this point in the journey challenges us in several consistent ways.