Today is my grief anniversary. Of all the things we mark and memorialize, I think grief is by far the most difficult. I had a friend sincerely ask me why I chose to have a grief anniversary when I could choose to remember Jayson on his birthday instead. My immediate response was that there is no instead. Honestly, I didn’t have the right answer to give her. It set me to thinking. I’m not sure we ever really choose to have a grief anniversary. We may not call it specifically by that name, but the date will come around every year that will give us pause. For me, it is now a date to make sense of all of the little moments I experience throughout the year.
The little moments continue to bubble up daily. In the mornings, when I pick out my clothes for the day, I look at his clothes and wonder what he’d wear. On the days I know he’d be in scrubs, it’s a little easier. But the tears still come, nonetheless. I miss the conversations we’d have as we got ready together in the mornings. I even miss having to be quiet on his days off when he’d want to sleep in. I miss turning to him to comment on a show we were watching. I miss holding his hand while we were watching TV. I miss making plans. The routines had become rituals after so long together. Those moments are forever changed, and as quickly as the thoughts come to mind, I mourn their loss as well. Even the mundane chores of doing laundry remind me of him. He gave me so much good-natured teasing because we folded certain things differently. Now they only get folded one way.
Grief anniversaries are essential, it seems. In addition to making sense of the little moments, it is also a time to reflect with my daughters, be present, and talk about the things we miss most. On any random day, they may curl up in my lap and suddenly be in tears because they miss their Daddy. I miss him, too. They cry that it’s not fair. It isn’t. They wish he could have been cured and that he didn’t have to die. So do I. On this day, we talk about missing him. We speculate about what he would want us to do without him here. Sharing our strength, we try to glimpse what forward looks like.
Forward. It’s that direction everyone wants you to go after you experience loss, and they want you to go on their schedule. They are undoubtedly well-meaning, and it comes from a place of missing the happier you. Grief anniversaries are also for grieving the loss of the person you once were. When we lose someone close to us, our lives are forever altered. The person you were when you were with them, when you were connected to them, is gone. You can’t even go back to the person you were before them because that person has also been irrevocably changed. You have to become someone new, and at times, that idea is exhausting.
Today marks two years since I last held his hand. I miss that. I keep trying so hard to look forward and to see beyond the now. Even after this long, the now is foggy and elusive. I keep trying to move things along, but life no longer works the same way. Together, we created an alchemy that made dreams come true. The future was so bright and exciting. Now my failed efforts pile up like dust in an unkempt house. But I keep trying. A quality of mine that he always admired was the fact that I am resilient. Even now, in the face of utter daily exhaustion, I still raise the sails. I thought two years would be different. I thought I would be well down a new path or know where the new trailhead was. But I’m still standing in the same place I’ve always been standing.
The Pandemic has made things worse. It has cut off support — though admittedly, I’m not one to readily accept help. Being confined has made my view myopic, and it takes such great effort to broaden that view and remember that life is more significant than what I see. This time has tested my ability to be a parent, and I’ve not always passed those tests. I’ve lost my patience. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve lost my ability to keep it all together at times. I owe those little girls so much. They were given a front-row seat to the death of their Daddy. Life can be so cruel.
Today I have to let this grief anniversary be more about self-compassion than about moving forward. Today is about not only honoring my late husband’s memory but about giving myself pause. As I sit amid failed efforts at being an entrepreneur, failed efforts at being a parent, failed efforts at being a writer, I have to just let myself be. I have to remind myself that even though I can see no end to the struggle doesn’t’ mean that there is no end. I don’t know if he’d be proud of where I am now. I worry that I haven’t made the right decisions. I worry that I’m not managing the money right. I worry that I’m not parenting right. I worry that I’m not making the best decisions about my career. Worry. But today, as I said, I’m taking some compassion.
Grief anniversaries are as much about us as those we lost. While they are for giving honor to our loved ones, they are about being kind to ourselves and the person we’re becoming without them. My husband always wanted the very best for me. I have no doubt about that. The question is, can I give myself what he thought I deserved? The before was like a mostly done puzzle, and you could feel the excitement and see the picture developing with each piece you put into place. The after is a jumble of puzzle pieces without even an image on the box. I’m still trying to find the starting piece. But today is about compassion, not the long road ahead, and not about the puzzle pieces.