During the process of bringing my book, “…to die for,” to press, I had many touching conversations with those who worked with me on the book. In one of those conversations, I was asked what I did to celebrate the Angel-versaries of my mom and dad. I found the question so simple yet profound and know that it can be troubling crossing this milestone for many, in particular, the first year after their passing.
My production manager revealed that she had planned to celebrate her brother's passing in such a special way. She and her mom developed a plan. They would be in special places, had set up small ceremonies (as they were not together) and planned some activities to bring them happiness. Planning ahead for this day is such a great idea, not only for yourself, but it helps to remind others that this special day is coming to pass.
I too was in a quandary as how to pass this date when it first came for both my mom and then my dad. For guidance, I reached back to the poem "The Dash" that a nurse had given me when my mom passed away; the poem talks about the time and events passed between the birth and death date. Following those thoughts, I directed myself to do something that they loved doing to honor their memory but to also spend a moment of silence in case they had a message for me.
A dear friend told me about a Jewish tradition; when a parent passes, they pin a small black ribbon to the inside of their clothing for a year to remember that first year. I found that so profound that I saved the sympathy thank you card she sent (put it in the door of my car) so that I could track along with her through the journey of that first year. I am not sure I ever told her. I helped me to remember to call her near that day, one year later, and reminisce.
On Facebook, I often see posts where friends recall the anniversary of a loved one’s passing and express that they still miss and long for them now gone. I understand that. After my mom died, I felt as though the world was cruelly marching forward. I cried several times a day. Anything could trigger it. As the days, weeks and months went by, there were days where I realized I hadn’t cried yet and then, that made me cry. Somehow, the lack of tears felt like I was letting my memory of her slip away or that she, or the lack of her physical presence, meant less to me. I took time to explore that as it felt like an unhealthy spiral. Slowly, I began visiting her in my thoughts, through her things and reminded myself how very grateful I was to have a mom that loved me so deeply that I was able to experience this tremendous feeling of loss.
When each of my parents had passed, I had found that the love I felt for each of them was strongly associated with their physical presence. Once they passed on and we buried them, I still had all that love but was missing the physical anchor for it. For a while, the grave site and their things became somewhat of a physical avatar of them for me, physically holding space for that dislocated love. I noticed with both of their deaths that around the five-month mark, the physical love I had for them somehow relocated itself within me, within my heart, and speaking of them became much easier. The only experience I recall that seems at all similar was being pregnant with our children. When I traveled on business trips while pregnant, it was nice; my daughter or my son was right there with me. I instantly knew they were healthy, safe, and loved. I spoke to them constantly. After they were born and I had to travel, I missed having them physically with me, even though I could speak to them on the phone. This process of physically relocating the love that I had for my parents was similar to this but in a reverse process.
Though I believe I have fully processed my grief, I’ve read it’s a process and can surprise you. Last year, my mom was gone 10 years. On the day of her passing, those feelings of really missing her came up; I texted my daughter to share my feelings. She responded with a picture of my Mom’s recipe book, saying, “Isn’t this a coincidence?! I was just unpacking some of the boxes you gave me from Nana’s house and was looking at her recipes. It’s so beautiful how she hand wrote these. I can’t wait to make some of her recipes!” Ten years later and I’m still feeling the love of my mother, this time, through the love and eyes of my daughter. These are the gifts of which I speak of in “…to die for.” Somehow, something she did with love ages ago can still touch me now. So blessed!How do you pass these anniversaries? I'd love to hear more.
“Finding Your Way through Grief: A Guide for the First Year” (2nd Ed) by Marty Tousley