I was recently asked to be a contributing writer for an article about celebrating/commemorating our loved one’s birthdays who have passed. This of course immediately made me think of my own bereavement journey.
I’ll never forget my late husband’s first birthday after he passed. It was at about the 6-month mark. The shock had worn off and I was in the midst of staring grief right in the face! It was torture, really. No one prepares you for this. I honestly had silly fantasies about grief that were not reality based. I used to think that something good would happen to balance out all the bad and quickly learned that life doesn’t work this way. Instead, life just keeps moving forward without our loved ones in it.
I did however get a clue early on that by honoring our loved ones who have passed helps us move forward more than not
At about the 6 week mark I attended a support group for donor families. My late husband was an organ, eye and tissue donor so I was invited to attend their monthly family support group.
I drove there in tears not knowing what to expect. They asked us all to bring pictures of our loved ones. We all sat around a table and made memory boxes with pictures of our loved ones on them. We talked about our loss while making arts and crafts! And you know what? I drove home feeling lifted up and not so alone.
This surprised me. Like many do, I used to think the best way to deal with grief was to ignore it, move on, brush it under the carpet, stiff upper lip sort of thing. Wrong! This may work for many things in life but not for grief.
I continued going to that monthly support group and doing things to honor my late husband. So, when his birthday came around it was a given that I would mark the day.
In the early morning of October 21, 2013, I took my then puppy, Hannah with me to the beach armed with birthday balloons and a large bouquet of roses. We walked to the end of the jetty/pier where Glenn and I would frequent. I tied the balloons to the fence and placed the roses there. It didn’t matter to me if someone took them. I smiled to myself all day thinking about it, it was just the act of doing this that made me smile.
Did you know that on my walk back to the car a pod of dolphins swam next to us the whole way as if they knew? You can’t make this stuff up!
I have continued to honor my late husband on his birthday each year, our wedding anniversary and his death date. I look for opportunities to honor him. I write about loss, I blog about loss and hope. I’ve stood on countless stages sharing my grief journey with others. This not only lifts me up but give me a sense of purpose.
So far, the highlight was on New Year’s Day 2017 my late husband was honored at the word famous, Rose Parade on the Donate Life float. A floragraph (a picture made from flowers) was atop the Donate Life float for the whole world to see! I’ve
I’m not saying grief is a walk in the park. I know first hand how difficult it is to face raw grief. I’ll never forget the first time it came crashing down on me, I thought I was in a torture chamber and couldn’t breathe. However even then, I instinctively knew to face it and not turn away from it. I loved my late husband and the thought of forgetting him was worse than the pain I felt so I made a conscious effort early on to honor him and to never forget him, ever.
As time has gone by, I have found that grief changes over time. I’ve discovered that memories never die like I feared they would. The bereaved DO want to talk about their loved ones who have passed, and this does not make them sad. It makes them smile. Love never dies.
The biggest reveal I’ve had recently is that over time I’ve found that the happy memories increase, and the not so happy ones melt away. I’ve come to not dread my late husband’s birthday. I honor him instead. He was a good man who lived a good life and I will love him until the end of time.