They say “time heals all wounds”. Anyone who believes that has never lost a piece of their heart…
Don’t get me wrong; in a lot of cases, that’s completely true. Over time, some wounds heal themselves simply by life continuing to be lived. There are other wounds, however, that can’t ever fully “heal”; losing someone who was once a piece of your heart definitely falls into that category. How the loss happens is irrelevant. The void and pain are the same. No matter how much time has passed, it comes in waves and is never quite “okay” or something you’ve “accepted”. It simply becomes how it is and you learn to live and breathe around the pain.
I’m not usually a morbid, depressing person. I’m writing this in the middle of what I very-unaffectionately call “Hell Week”. It starts on October 16th and ends around the 24th. I was 16 in 1998 when my father died very suddenly on the 19th. I was 24 in 2006 when my grandmother (my dad’s mom) lost her very abrupt, devastating battle with Pancreatic Cancer on the 22nd. (She was diagnosed right before Labor Day of that same year and had been seemingly perfectly healthy up until then.) All of the dates immediately surrounding those two days are filled with nothing but awful, heartbreaking, soul shattering memories that are burned into my brain and heart. It’s nearly impossible to not be smacked in the face with that every year…
Holidays can hurt. Birthdays can hurt. Family events and milestones can hurt. But the difference with each of those things compared to an anniversary is that they’re filled with years of good, happy memories with the person you lost. An anniversary only serves to represent losing them and those unbearable, surreal first moments of life without them by your side. No matter how much time has passed, those aren’t days you can easily forget…
If you’ve done the math, you’ll realize that this week marks my father’s 17th anniversary and my grandmother’s 9th. …this isn’t my first rodeo. There have been a good handful of years in there when each of these dates came and went with not much more than a moment of solemn acknowledgement. There are other years when this week has been just as debilitating and incapacitating as when it was first happening. This year it’s much closer to the latter. There apparently isn’t any rhyme or reason to it.
This year in particular, I have a pretty good idea as to why it’s harder than other years have been… there are two reasons: one is a very happy reason, and the second is a very upsetting reason.
Reason 1: I’m getting married in April! I’ve waited my whole adult life to say those words. Finding my true north and the person whom I truly believe was always destined to be my wife, has been the single most gratifying, life-affirming experience of my life. I even have it on good authority that my 3 most important guardian angels (my grandfather joined the ranks in March of 2014) put us on this path to each other. I feel their guidance and love almost as much as when they were physically here with me. The happiest of moments, however, can also bring the saddest of feelings because they are when you desperately want them to experience it with you. Planning for such a huge life moment and being overwhelmed with sheer happiness brings a keen awareness to their absence.
Reason 2: …isn’t really mine to share, but it’s about one of my absolute closest family members. A huge, scary moment will happen in his life this week and it absolutely kills me that they weren’t here to be a direct guide over the years. I can’t say for sure it would have mattered; we are all adults and choose our own individual paths. I’d like to think that my father in particular could have played a key role in steering this path. I take a lot of solace, however, in the fact that this event is happening on the 22nd – my grandmother’s anniversary. I truly believe that’s her way of letting us all know that she is on it and will guide and keep him safe during this chapter.
…so I happen to have reasons this year to feel the loss more than I may have otherwise. But take it from me, you don’t ever need to identify a “reason” to feel broken by a loss, no matter how much time has passed. There is no expiration on grief. There is no right way to handle it, or right time during which to “get over it”. It permanently changes a piece of you and it’s perfectly acceptable to acknowledge that in any way that feels right to YOU personally.
Life is not a fairy tale… Time does not heal all wounds… But there are ways to grieve that will make you feel that you’ve honored the person and your relationship… and no one gets to dictate that for you… ride the waves.