As a child and through young adulthood I’ve never knew what to say when I was lavished with gifts out of the norm, I would feel awkward, somehow underserving and it made me uncomfortable. That is how I felt with sympathy somehow. It makes me feel like I need to say something in return, it makes me uncomfortable for the person offering it and it makes me feel like I need to make the person who is offering their sympathy feel better. I remember saying “It’s ok” to multiple people at the funeral and hugging people more for them than myself. Since then I’ve become some sort of a grief advocate. I say my daughter’s name when something relevant comes up, just as I would if she was alive. I don’t care if I make others “uncomfortable” life and death are uncomfortable.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of my daughter’s death, the anniversary of loosing a piece of myself, loosing part of my family, and the anniversary of this day changing the trajectory of each of her sisters and her parents, family and friends forever. I took the day off of work. I decided to be open about the date. It is my daughter’s Angel date as I call it. Where I believe her to be in a better place, and I have no concern to debate it with anyone who feels otherwise. I know it makes my managers feel uncomfortable to hear me say multiple times, as I was asked if I was working that day multiple times, “it is the anniversary of my daughter’s death, I will not be there”.
At some point, at first for my other daughter’s and then for myself, I decided I was not going to let grief consume me. It easily could have. The most important lesson I have learned is that it NEVER goes away. There are moments it overwhelms me, and I feel it, observe it and I let it pass. I think setting aside a day for grief is a novel concept. On her birthday I celebrate her, her ideals, the non-profit in her name, he life and beauty. On holidays I remember her. But on this day I grieve her loss and I encourage my daughters to take the day off from responsibilities for that time.
I believe it gives grief a place to reside. A day or a place. A time to light a candle, plant a tree or bulbs, read a favorite book, go on a quiet walk, or as my family as adopted, spreading rose petals either at a place she loved or someplace she would have loved to see.
I recently read some poetry by Caitlyn Siehl, and these words stood out to me, “Do not fall in love with people like me.
I will take you to museums, and parks, and monuments, and kiss you in every beautiful place, so that you can never go back to them without tasting me like blood in your mouth.
I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible. And when I leave you will finally understand, why storms are named after people.” To me that describes loss.
It made me then wonder why storms were names after people, the words that hit home with a little internet search were these, “Meteorologists long ago learned that naming tropical storms helps us remember, communicate about them more effectively, and so to stay safer” earthsky.org
Why would grief then be so different? It is a hurricane that threatens to level your life, it deserves to be acknowledged, to be named for the damage and chaos it brought to your life. I think about Katrina. I visited NewOrleans a year after I lost my daughter. I didn’t know the words then, but I recognize the sisterhood I felt with the city. It was a city rebuilding, a city that was loved and still loved, it was a city that would never be the same, but it does not hide in shame of its destruction. It rebuilds, scarred, determined, beautiful but never the same.