Is it just me, or do you get caught off guard when you see your birth date mentioned when you didn’t expect it?

You see an event on TV and you look up because you see it’s on your birthday? Or something falls on that day and you speak up and say “Hey, that’s my birthday”. The anniversary day of Jon’s death is the same way. Mark, my co-worker is taking some vacation time and it starts on December 5th. I’m thinking, wait, that’s “THE” day. The amvets pick up day postcard arrived in my mail today, and it was dated for December 6th and I’m thinking, that’s the day after. This is the day our lives changed, so why wouldn’t this date stick out as a life changing event, like a birthday would? Funny how the two are polar opposites.

Last year before this day arrived, I was planning my nervous breakdown. I thought I was coping really well throughout the year and that the fallout would happen on that day. But it didn’t. I woke up with an ache in my heart, like I had so many other days, and I had planned on crashing this day and not being a part of anything, you see it was scheduled as the day of my breakdown. But I got up and got dressed and took the kids to Karate with my Dad. Business as usual. I was numb and shaky, but I felt…”protected”? I don’t remember much else about that day, except that I felt some sort of blanket wrapped around me. I’m not sure about this year. It’s already less than a week away and the ache is growing. That damn day is creeping back up and along with it comes a replay of that day and the events that followed.

This feeling is what is inspiring me to share what I’ve learned so far. And not necessarily in any order of importance.

  1. I’m still here and life is going on. The heartache doesn’t get any better, I think I’m just getting used to it.
  2. I’m learning more about my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m not as easily functional at home, but I feel I’m more functional at work. I work with a fantastic group of people who would do anything for me. They are also funeral professionals and understand grief and get why my work is so rewarding.
  3. Grief is as complicated and no two people grieve the same. As simple as this sounds, looking in from the outside, people assume it’s a common ailment that is universal. It most certainly is not. The pain may be similar, but how we deal with it is frequently light years apart.
  4. I’ve learned to HATE driving. I’ve survived by the simple coping mechanism of “distracton”. In my car it’s just me and the radio, or silence. I’m forced to deal with thoughts and feelings I’m not ready for yet. I’ve oftentimes questioned my choice of how I’m dealing with my grief, but I’m also forgiving myself for it. If this is what gets me through, then so be it. I’m being gentle with myself and my process.
  5. The people have been my support system are those that were there for us when he was still here. My close knit friends and my parents are still here for us. Those that have made promises did so in good faith, I get that. But they feel sorry for us from a distance now and that’s okay. This is a hard truth and one that othes in my position should be aware of. I am sure in some circumstances, new bonds are made, but for me, it only strengthened the bonds that were already in place.
  6. I still feel married. I still love him and that bond is still strong. I’m not against someday finding someone special, someone different, but that is no where near my radar screen yet. Oddly enough, it’s a very common question. So, no. I’m not there yet and don’t see in my near future.
  7. Grief hits at the most inconvenient moments. Nighttime is hard. The house is quiet and I’m alone with my thoughts. This makes me think of the widows I work with at the funeral home; the wife who was married for over 50 years and she has to return to the home they shared for longer than I’ve been alive. Imagine the silence they hear and feel. Those that were dedicated caregivers have to learn how to live without their spouse. They return to a home where the sound of the oxygen machine was staple for years, to the medication bottles that won’t be counted and refill numbers that won’t be repeated. And for those on hospice, the blank space where the hospital bed was. We all have to learn a new normal. And I’m thankful that I have a busy, noisy, bustling home.
  8. I’ve learned up super sensitive to any behavior issues with the kids. I’m well aware that keeping a close eye on every action and analyzing whether or not it’s grief is important and exhausting. I’ve spent much of my first year grieving for them and for everyone close to him. I know that they will carry this with them for a lifetime and it will change for them, as it does with me. But what is so amazing is that they carry so much of him inside of them. They all favor his appearance and the older the boys get, the more they look like him. They have his exact build and watching them mature is bittersweet and I know they want to make him proud. If he is watching over them, I know he is.

I’m honored to have this space to share these thoughts and hope my post next year shows just as much progress as one that I could have written last year.