Give yourself a medal. It’s what my friend, Jennifer Pastiloff urges the attendees of her writing and yoga retreats to do for themselves. Her basic theory is that no one else is going to give you one, so you need to give yourself one. Go ahead and be proud of any and all accomplishments you’ve made, and acknowledge them.
Today, I’m following that advice. Today is the fourth anniversary of the day my daughter died, and you know, I’m giving myself a medal for not losing my effing mind.
This loss is hard. This grief is hard. Every day without her is a burden I am forced to bear for the rest of my life, and It. Is. Hard.
In the days leading up to her birthday and the anniversary of her death each year I find myself becoming increasingly scatterbrained, anxious, and worrisome. I become short tempered with my husband and anyone else who has the unfortunate experience of being around me in those days. And in small ways, I just sort of inwardly ‘lose’ it.
While texting with a friend yesterday who knows this type of loss firsthand, she mentioned how the mere anticipation of these days cause her to break down, and by the time the significant date rolls around she’s practically numb.
I so get that. That’s me.
Acknowledgement helps. Each time the people around you take a moment to say your child’s name, recant a memory, or just let you know you’re on their mind a layer of pressure is lifted. Grief is lonely, and when those around you show you comfort and compassion, it can pull us out of the feelings of isolation we so often live in.
We may all have people in our lives who will never mention our children at all. The anger, disappointment, resentment, and hurtfulness that I’ve had to reign in and snuff out has often caused me a great deal of animosity, and trepidation. I don’t always deal with those feelings in the most graceful of ways, but such is the nature of grief. More so, it can be an unnecessary burden, a challenge, in learning how to accept that those relationships are whatever they are, and there is nothing you can do, or should have to do to alter them.
She’s dead. No one has to show up for a birthday party or buy her a gift. It costs nothing to tell someone you are thinking about them. It doesn’t take much time or effort to let someone know you remember their dead child. And yet, for some, those outputs of miniscule effort never happen. You may be thinking about the family or friend who lost their child, but they need to hear it.
It takes a lot of patience, love, and acceptance to move on when a call never comes or your child’s name is never spoken.
But when it is, the joy that fills your heart is unmatched.
My dad calls me all the time. He makes a point to talk about my daughter throughout the year. He tells me about his memories of her, and when he talks about her to other people. And he makes specific effort on her birthday and the day of her death, even the days leading up to, to let me know she is on his mind, and in his heart.
It means more to me than he will ever know. Ever.
And that’s all it takes.
So instead of focusing on who isn’t there, the phone calls that never come, or the messages I don’t receive. I’m choosing to stay focused on the wealth of support I do have, and all the remembrances that come my way. I’m giving myself a medal for not losing my mind, because I’m still standing, that shit’s hard sometimes.
If you’d like to honor Miss Elliott today, a donation to the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association would be greatly appreciated. http://www.ntsad.org
For more amazing insight on humanity, wonderful writing, and info on how you can be a part of one of her retreats, visit Jen’s site: http://themanifeststation.net/