Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Anniversaries




Each anniversary, birthday, and holiday during the first year of grief carries its own suitcase of memories and heartaches that flop open when the day arrives, spilling its misery.

If we rummage through their contents in the first year, as hard as they are to face, they are only half as hard to face in the second year, which is a consolation because then the joys in those memories begin to return and offset the sorrows.

The dilemma is whether to deliberately face these memories and deepen our grief this year, or ignore them for as long as we can and risk losing the memories forever. Facing them now helps us recover faster.

It’s not just the memories that throw us. There’s also the matter of celebration. It’s hard to give ourselves permission to enjoy life again when our loved ones can’t, no matter how illogical this is. It’s hard to go out to a favorite restaurant and enjoy the food. It’s hard sometimes even to think that it’s okay to smile. But our loved ones would want us to be happy again, and after being sour for an entire year, they’d say it was time. We would want them to be happy again if we had died. Even being sure of this, it’s hard to give ourselves permission.

If you’re like me, I smiled and cried a lot during the first year, often at the same time, which must have confused the people around me. After being so guarded with feelings for most of my life, grief freed me to express whatever I was feeling. That confused people, too. But surprisingly, people liked seeing this unknown side of me because they had long suspected that I was a real person who could be moody, angry, and silly.

I was dreading the first anniversary of Evelyn’s death, the last big event of the first year that I had to face, when a friend suggested that I celebrate Evelyn rather than mourn because this was also the first anniversary of the birth of Evelyn’s spirit. So rather than put on a hair shirt and eat gruel, I went on a hike that Ev would have loved, and in the evening I lit a candle to honor her light in my life. 

I’ve done this every anniversary since. 

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