There are more than you might think.
Most folks would count the date of death and maybe the date of burial or memorial service.
But a mama’s heart counts it ALL.
I count the day he left, the day I was first able to view his body, the days of visitation, the day of the funeral and burial.
- I count the day we cleaned out his apartment.
- I count the day I notified credit card companies he would no longer require their services.
- I count the day I received the death certificate.
- I count the day I got his posthumous diploma.
And every year these dates roll around again to remind my heart of the pain I felt then and to pierce it afresh.
So how does a heart survive all these grief anniversaries? How can I navigate the minefield of emotions and triggers that only I can see?
I believe the first step is to embrace them and not try to deny them.
I remember the horror I felt when I realized I had survived 365 days since the deputy came to my door when I was certain I wouldn’t make it through the first 24 hours. It did not feel like victory, it felt like betrayal.
How in the world could my broken heart keep beating if I truly loved my son?
I cannot, by force of will, fend off the feelings that are sure to invade my heart when it recognizes that another year has passed.
The most important thing is to have a plan, I think. That way it doesn’t slam you against the wall unawares. The feelings are impossible to outrun, but having a plan means you are anticipating them and in a kind of “fighting stance”.
The plan might be to go away or to go to the cemetery or other spot that evokes strong connection to your child. It might be an elaborate gathering that includes friends or family or just lighting a candle next to a photograph. Your heart may insist you stay in bed all day, covers over your head and wait out the ticking moments.
I think each family has to approach the day however makes sense to them. There is certainly no “right” way or “easy” way to do it.
I am sorry you have to do it at all.
Here’s the truth: even THAT day will only last 24 hours. Just like the awful day when your child left you.
However you manage to survive is fine.
You are not abandoning your missing child if you don’t make a big public display. You are not forgetting him or her if you let go of some of these grief anniversaries over time-you are learning to carry the load. You are not a bad parent if you choose a getaway to distract your heart from the pain.
You are coping the best you can-choosing to carry on.
And that makes you awesome and brave.