Today marks the 3rd anniversary of my mother's (Joy) passing. I can barely believe that it has already been that long. I blogged about my stages of grief in a post a year and a half ago and feel like an update is warranted. Lately, I have been concerned about and praying for a lot of friends and family who have been experiencing the 1st anniversary of their loved one's death. I know that I have always found the anticipation of certain dates and holidays to be a little awkward. I find that sometimes, the moments when I think I will be a wreck, I do fairly well. Other times, I am walking through a store without a care in the world and "You Lift Me Up" comes on over the intercom and I am suddenly a mess.
I remember my first holiday season without Mom. The feeling of missing her was exhausting me. How was I going to enjoy Christmas and make it special for my kids with the way I was feeling?? I prayed for relief. Then on Christmas Day, I found myself enjoying my kids, my family, and the festivities. I didn't stop missing her but I felt better....and that made me feel guilty!! I know it sounds stupid but it is the truth. Finally, I realized that I was blessed and actually had my prayers answered.
I have also found that I don't feel a greater connection to her when I am at the cemetery. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy visiting and I find it helpful. It allows me to focus my thoughts on her in a beautiful environment. We go as a family or I sometimes go alone to pray without interruption. However, I have discovered that my greatest connection to her was in her living, not in her death. In some ways, the cemetery represents an end to a stage in our relationship and reminds me of the saddest days of my life. I feel a greater connection when I read and touch the words she had written, when I think of her life in Heaven, when I hear my kids talk of her fondly, or when I hug my dad. I want to focus on her life. Although three years have passed, her impact is alive and well. In me, my children, and the people that knew her best.
Nate Berkus talked about dealing with the loss of his partner in a tsunami, on the Oprah show. Something he said really resonated with me. Check it out below.
When Fernando's next birthday was approaching, Nate says he felt "horror." But when the day came and went, and Nate felt fine, he wondered what was wrong with him. "What I really realized for me was that the date actually doesn't have any power. The memory had the power," he says. "When I decided that I wasn't going to just automatically be sad in August and just automatically be destroyed in December, all of a sudden August and December weren't scary to me."
This makes sense to me. I feel like you have to let the memories come when they come. Feel sad when you feel sad but don't let that feeling stop you from functioning. And most importantly, laugh and enjoy their memory whenever you can. The best way to honor my Mom is to live well and take good care of her grandkids (which translates into spoiling them).
I am also a lucky lady and I have always felt supported by the people in my life. My husband is so good. He isn't intimidated by my grief and it's unexpected appearances. I know that he loved her too. I know that he will talk to me or just leave me alone if that is what I need. I also get a daily email from the Brave Girls Club blog. They offer words of encouragement and for some reason, most of them lately strangely seem to be talking about something that I have been dealing with. It is like the horoscope or the fortune teller that eerily mimics your life. Today's had artwork with the breast cancer awareness ribbon on it (My mom name is Joy and she was a breast cancer survivor.). The words stated, "What if the purpose of life was to experience JOY?...What would you need to change in your life? What would you need to let go, and what would you need to cling tighter to? Well, life is supposed to be joyful...and it can be. Hold on tight to what is important and precious, and let everything else go...And have a joyful, joyful, joyful day!" It brought a little tear to my eye but I knew that the words were for my own good. My BFF gets the same email and she saw the connection and when I got home from work, I was so surprised to see a flower bouquet from her with the card reading, "Smile and be Joyful today!"
So how did I handle today? Well, like many days, I felt happy and sad. I felt a little lonely, wanting to call and talk about the kids. I found myself calling my dad to tell him that I loved him. I still had to figure out what to do with those feelings and this anniversary. Well, I did what Mom would do...I let the kids eat pizza in front of the T.V. (in pajamas) on the family room floor where a tent was enveloping most of the room. And of course they had more dessert than I would normally allow. The kids thought that it was a little funny that I was spoiling them like Mamaw. I wish that it wasn't such a busy school and work night or I would have went all out. It would have definitely involved her trademark fruit snacks.
The day was filled with a little more "Joy" and a little less grief. It is just what she'd want for us. So for those of you dealing with something similar, I pray that you might have comfort and many great memories that will help to overshadow the memory of your loss.