Grief and Loss

Grief Anniversaries

The black capped chickadee’s two toned call.

Robins littering my front yard as the snow finishes melting off.

Sunny Saturday’s of pushing my little boy on the swing set.

For me, these are moments and days where my heart again aches so deeply for the little boy who calls heaven “home”, rather than my arms. 

He’d be nearly two years old now. The magnitude of that- the time that’s gone by, the skills he would have learned, the giggles and smiles I’ve never gotten to experience- weighs heavy on me these days. 

I see two year olds pass by and wonder what he would be like… I don’t think I’ll ever stop, to be honest. But my heart aches as I see life in their eyes and look down at my empty arms.

Grief is born of love and so in love we wonder who they would have been “this year”, in “this moment”. 

Grief doesn’t let you forget. And in some moments that is a curse, but in so many more moments it’s a blessing because it gives them a place to live and always reside- safe within my heart. 

Grief anniversaries sneak up on me and emotionally slam me deep into the ground. They are unpredictable, painful reminders of not only my son’s death but of the unimaginable pain that ensued in the “after”. It renews that pain and nearly takes my breath away in those moments. It hurts, so deeply. 

And nobody around me feels it, sees it or expects it. 

Even in the pain of  the morning I awake to the first robin hopping through the grass- I must move out of my bed of misery and pain, and function as “normally” as a grieving mother can. Food still needs to be made, laundry washed, errands run, and children here on earth with me, hugged a bit tighter. 

The days when I’m outside with the kids as they color with chalk and the black capped chickadee calls out from high in the trees- my heart aches so deeply for my little Philip. 

I remember days of laying in bed with the hours on the clock flowing by unnoticed; and all I heard was the noise outside my window- the bird calls, the wind, the trains in the distance. These are heart memories more so than mind memories. And heart memories can bring about renewed pain in an instant- in a way that is just as fresh as the moment that memory was made. 

In a way, in that moment,  my world stops as I grieve my son not here. But this world stopping would rarely be noticed from those outside of me, because the globe continues to spin around, as does life.

In that moment, a grief anniversary occurs, a place where the pain gurgles up to the surface from the depths of your heart and the stabbing pain takes your breath away. The memories come to the forefront of your mind so fresh- and tears fill your heart and eyes- as you ponder the “what if” that didn’t happen – the “what if they were here now”. 

Grief anniversaries happen nearly daily for me, especially come spring time, when our little boy entered both our arms and heavens’ gates. 

People around you have a sense of sensitivity and expectation of grief around holidays  as you remember your little one not here, but these grief anniversaries that surprise us and take our breath away are so often both unnoticed and misunderstood and labeled as “depression”, “wallowing in self-pity”, or “failing to move on”.

 What I think people who haven’t travelled this road seem to miss (as a whole) is this: I never will forget. This child will always be a part of my life- just as living children are. Time doesn’t heal , grieving their life, does. And grief is normal. 

Maybe they can’t “get it”- I wish this experience on no one- God knows. But, I will say I wish they could see life from a perspective like mine, like ours. A perspective that understands the high heights and deep depths of life a little better, a heart that must mix many moments of joy with sorrow (and understand the chaos and confusion of trying to blend those) and still find a way to smile, a way to find strength to keep going when you can’t find the strength to stand up, and a raw understanding of “relying completely on God”. 

But knowing they  can’t understand doesn’t make the grief any easier to bear. It means smiling while tears fill your eyes or glow slowly down your cheeks, it means turning to walk away when seeing that two year old laughing his heart out on the swing- is too much. It means an extra visit to the cemetery on days where I just miss him a little extra. It means bearing life and bearing grief simultaneously, and doing it with grace- for both yourself and those surrounding you. 

And it means smiling through the pain knowing you carry love in your heart to a depth that not many can know. And graciously bearing the weight of grief anniversaries as you do so. 

The days when I awake to those black capped chickadees are some of the hardest for me. Grief encompasses me even before I have had my coffee. It surrounds me with memories and tempts me not to even “try” that day. But I must try. I must get up and live. I have to be aware that that moment, or day, or whatever amount of time it is- is a moment I get to spend “with him” as any earthly human can- remembering my little boy up in heaven and the beautiful songbirds that must live up there with him- and continuing to live here, to sing even- as the chickadees do- so that those around me and the “me” within me can see me rise, even from ashes. 

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