Grief is tricky, isn’t it? Although the pain is always fresh, there, and something we live with every day, on birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, grief seems to rear it’s ugly head and intensify the loneliness, the pain, the sorrow of missing our loved ones. Although grief is now a part of my every breath of existence, I seem to know that I am going to have a date with grief, dance with him for a few days (sometimes weeks), on these dates:
My birthday, his birthday, our daughter’s birthday, the day he was diagnosed with cancer, our wedding anniversary, our dating anniversary, our son’s birthday, the day he passed, and the holidays: You see, these are the dates I know my trusty companion–grief– is going to come see me. He always lingers his presence right before these dates, and sometimes he stays far longer than he is invited to. Grief and I have come to a new place, though. Even though I know he is coming to see me, we look different and here’s how:
I know I am going to be sad. I know that tears are going to fall, but on his birthday, his boy and I always go to breakfast at Mommy and Daddy’s favorite little diner. After we eat, we surprise whoever our server is and we leave a tip of whatever age Daddy would have been that year. Last year, we got to leave a $41 tip, and a note that went with it–talk about smacking grief right in the face. We did good. And we loved it.
When we left there, we celebrated that man I love so much. I took his boy in a helicopter ride so we could “be close to Daddy.” Because sometimes it is the innocence of a child and their ability to feel closer to the Daddy they love and miss, that heals my own heart. I loved this date with grief, we made it better.
That red-headed little girl that is turning 18 this year–we’re going to celebrate big. Though birthday parties aren’t her thing as she is grown into a beautiful young lady, traveling is. And no matter how old his kids get, I love getting to give them the life he would want them to have!
June 20th will forever be etched into my mind. This is the day I had a seven month swollen belly, when the doctor told me Joe had Colon Cancer, and immediate surgery was needed. When this day hits each year, I always look around and realize that I could never believe that cancer diagnosis could give me the life I have today–good and bad. And I thank God for all that was delivered in it. The bad made me better, the good restored my faith in humanity, and allowed me the time I needed with Joe.
My wedding anniversary and dating anniversary may be the most special though. Although unbearable my first few years, I vowed to myself I would always celebrate it–not wallow in my tears in bed all day. Porter and I went back to the beach Joe and I got married on my first anniversary without him; the next year, I went parasailing over Table Rock Lack; the next–I went to dinner at sunset at a beautiful upscale restaurant, and last year I went to see my favorite artists in concert. Grief tangos with me as I celebrate an anniversary alone, but I refuse to allow it to take all the happiness my marriage brought, and continues to bring into my life.
Possibly the hardest date I celebrate is August 21–the day we welcomed our boy into this world. Though I watch him in amazement, astonishment, love and pride beyond what my heart can hold, tears flow down my cheeks. His Daddy would be SO proud of him–I know he is. I just want him here to celebrate with us. Instead, we watch the smoke from the candles we blow out go up into Heaven, so “Daddy can see us eating the cake.” Those birthday presents? They are always signed, “Love, Mommy and Daddy.” Because his Daddy is still giving us the life, he would always want us to have. I know because I seem him in everything we do and everything around us.
The final day I got to kiss and hug him goodbye, is my biggest date of the year with grief. Oh, grief shows up big–the tears fall all day, the broken heart lurches into my throat for me to try to swallow over and over again. I cannot help but watch our home videos, because somehow they heal me to see/hear him again, and they hurt me too. Taking a day for myself, away from work, responsibilities and life, has seemed to reset me, get myself into check and help me with clarity. What I would say though–helping others takes the cake. And therefore, holding a fundraiser to raise funds for a scholarship to give to a senior that will graduate after losing a parent, or going under the radar to help a family in need–THAT is the way I “celebrate” grief on the day that reminds me of our final moments.
Holidays are no different–but here’s what I want you to know. The traditions, the memories, the get-together’s, the celebrations–they just amplify that our loved ones aren’t here. It is not that the pain and loneliness isn’t here during the rest of the year, it just exposes loss and loneliness. I started a new tradition, and my angel tree, and the search for new angel ornaments each year, ensures Joe is still ever-present in this life.
What I want you to know? We all dance with grief–our dates, anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays–they are ever more reminders of what we have lost and what we love. It’s not bad, it’s life. Celebrate with us in whatever crazy way we come up with. Talk to us about them, allow us to remember the ones we love in Heaven, with the ones still here on Earth. Be one of those in celebration–after all, we love you too!
Keep Going in Grief, It’s so Worth It!