It's his birthday this week. March 22nd. On this day, I will always "celebrate" Mike. There will never be a March 22nd that I don't spend with him. On his birthday I purposefully choose to remember the way he lived. I celebrate the life and love we shared together. This is how I try to honor him everyday - not just on his birthday. That being the case, I admit that I want to do something more on his special day, but I haven't completely decided what this might be.
In the grief world people do all different types of things to mark birthdays. The way we choose to celebrate our person are varied. The only thing constant is that the celebrations are fitting for those who died. I like that. Not one type of birthday celebration will do because the people we are honoring are separate, unique individuals. To honor their person, some people release balloons and the environmentalist scold them, others set off lanterns that are biodegradable - they don't receive any backlash. Some choose to cook their person's favorite meal. Some people gather friends and family together. Some go to the cemetery. Some have cake. Some people spend the day alone - in bed. There really is no correct way to mark a birthday for someone who died, or for someone who is living for that matter.
For me, on significant days, I find that I am less out of sorts if I have a plan of some kind. When special days occur on the calendar I prefer to plan something. If I don't organize something, then grief leads me places I don't want to go. Creating a shape for the day is what works best for me. You might be different. Grief has many commonalities, but each of our experiences is unique. So, I think that we should do whatever is best for us. We should do whatever soothes our Soul.
Because I love to write, it's not surprising that I will write Mike a birthday letter. I will go to the grave and tie a balloon to the shepherd's hook I have lovingly placed behind his headstone. To Mike, there will be a handwritten message on his birthday balloon. I will stand there, on his grave, wishing with all my heart that things were different. I will play him some of our favorite songs, and I will toast him with his favorite wine. And, then I will cry. Before I leave, I will read Mike his birthday letter. And, then, I will cry some more. My graveside visit is very precise and predictable because I have completed this ritual for all our significant dates. I know how it feels. I know what to expect. And, I find it comforting in some strange way. For me, it feels right to honor Mike in this way. My rituals are sacred and intimate for us.
However, I am an overachiever and I outgrow routine quickly; so, this year, I want to do more to mark his birthday. I feel it is necessary. Mike's life was bigger than my ritual of reading him a birthday letter and toasting him with a glass of Malbec. His love for me was deeper than just me, his widow, standing at his graveside offering a balloon to the man she loves. (For those of you who did these exact things please know that your gestures were perfect as they are. Nothing more is needed to honor your loved one's birthday. It's just me. This year, I know that I need to change things up.)
I honor Mike every day - in both big and small ways. Daily, I credit him with the profound impact he has on my life. I think we all do this as widows and widowers. I believe that we naturally "celebrate" our person, in their absence, every day of the year. Yet, for me, my Soul is calling me to do something more on for Mike on his birthday this year, I just haven't figured out what...
Four years have come and gone since the last time Megan was present for Shelby’s birthday. By February 17, 2014, Megan had already been diagnosed with rejection, although she hadn’t been admitted to the hospital as of yet. Shelby was turning seven, and four days prior, Megan and I received the results from her bronchoscopy.
We rented out one of those “inflatable gym” spaces for Shelby, and invited all of her friends to join. It was a madhouse, to say the least...screaming, jumping, running around, laughing, and smiles from ear to ear. I distinctly remember the both of us having nervous thoughts in the back of our minds about Megan’s health, but suppressing all of them in order to give Shelby the birthday she wanted. She would have no clue, no inkling of something amiss on this day.
Going through some old texts and emails last week, I came across a conversation that Megan and I had just a day or two before the party…
Megan: Should we talk to Shelby about it?
Mike: Yeah, but let’s do it together. I don’t know how to start the convo with her, but we need to anyway.
Megan: Yeah. I don’t like this.
Mike: Me either.Read more
July is here. Megan’s birth month. Although her birthday isn’t until late, the 24th, just the fact that it’s this month serves as a near constant reminder. Every day in July, I consciously wonder how many days it is until the 24th. It’s a passing thought mostly. “It’s the 7th. Hmm...17 days until her birthday. Oh, it’s the 11th. 13 days I guess.”.
It’s not a trigger fest.
This past week was my birthday. I turned 34. It might be the first time in my life I don’t really seem to have any particular feeling about turning an age. Usually I have a feeling of either excitement or resentment towards a new age. When I hit 30, I was so gloriously ready to leave my 20’s behind because they were, with the exception of meeting Drew, quite hard years. I had an abusive boyfriend, two jobs, and too many classes to count in my early twenties. I had a fear of relationships and complete breakdown and entered therapy in my mid twenties. Not to mention an alcoholic dad creating occasional chaos throughout all of that. I spent the better half of that decade fighting so hard to survive… with the odds of a dysfunctional childhood rearing at every turn. My twenties were filled with many adventures, but also much pain. Particularly when Drew died, just 3 months shy of my 30th birthday.
The best years, were from 26 to 29. My years with Drew. They were the first carefree years of my life. The first years where I finally understood what it felt like to exhale fully. Those were the birthdays I didn’t want to end. The celebrations that would span a whole week, just because this one person enjoyed celebrating me that much. Both of my parents were dead already, but his overflowing love combined with that of our amazing friends made it much harder to feel the pain. I remember in fact just enjoying my birthdays, fully, without the bittersweet feelings. Instead with only a passing thought to my parents.
Since he died, birthdays have yet again returned to that sort of “hurry up and get it over with” feeling. And I hate it. I hate that I fought so hard for so long in my twenties to finally have peaceful, joyful birthdays only to have them stolen away again. And it isn’t like I don’t try. It certainly isn’t like Mike doesn’t try. Having someone new in your life doesn’t take away the pain or the longing for your other person though. And I’ve learned over time that some years are just harder than others.
This Wednesday marked my husband's 37th birthday. This was the third I've had to mark without him and surprisingly, I found it to be somewhat different to the past two.
I woke up thinking about what we might have been doing if he were still here. On his last birthday, his 34th birthday, I'd snuck out of our room the evening before and hidden little gifts and clues around the house, so that when he woke on the morning of his special day there was a treasure hunt ready and waiting for him.
Thinking about that now, I can't help but smile. It may sound like a strange activity to plan for a grown man but it combined two things Dan loved - silly games and personal challenges. His face had lit up when I handed him his first clue card, he couldn't believe I'd gone to so much trouble and we raced around the house laughing and cheering as he guessed each destination and found a treasure along with the next hint.
Remembering that last birthday bought him back to me for a moment. It's not that I'd forgotten - the memories are as crisp and bright as ever - but it had been quite a while since I'd taken them down from the shelf, held them, touched them and allowed myself to be taken back there.Read more
There was once a time when I assumed that Shelby would grow up more quickly than her peers. Since she was born, she’s dealt with her mother being sick, going through major surgeries, and ultimately, dying. That a sobering thought when you’re the parent of a little girl, who really just wants to go to school, play with her toys, and do fun things. She would have to grow up fast.
She barely had the chance to be a “normal” girl. Megan was only in a truly healthy state for about two years; the rest of the time was spent between hospitalizations and recovery from her transplant. I cannot begin to describe how terrifying it must have been for Megan, knowing that she was going to be leaving Shelby to grow up without the only normal she had known.
I was ill-equipped to raise her alone...Megan knew it, and I knew it. I haven’t the slightest idea which Disney princess is currently popular, or what the newest trend is in 8 year old fashion. While I’m the one that can help her with her school work and take her hiking, I don’t have her friends parents’ names, let alone contact information. I barely know her shoe size, and I’m still constantly trying to figure out what foods she likes today versus yesterday.
You don’t realize how important the little things are until you don’t have them. It could be something as simple as sitting on the couch, watching TV until you fall asleep with your partner, and it is taken for granted. Then you lose that person.
I’ll admit that I was eased into some of the more technical aspects of the widower role, being that Megan had spent so much time in the hospital over the years. There were plenty of times where I was a temporarily single father. Making sure Shelby got to school and was fed and clothed was never something I struggled intensely with after Megan died.
Even so, there were plenty of things I still took for granted when Megan was here, and some of those things are surfacing over the past few weeks.
Today, my dear and sweet husband, you are not 51.
Today is your birthday. You are not here.
You cant eat cake or blow out candles or makes jokes about getting older and how time flies.
You can't go and see the new "Peanuts" movie with me, our favorite, which comes out today, on your birthday.
We can't joke around about how you will always sit and wait in the pumpkin patch with me , forever, just like Sally did on Halloween night with Linus.
We cant share popcorn today, or share a large root beer that I would only take two sips of and you would drink all the rest.
Today is your birthday, and you are not 51.Read more
Something I say to my grief-therapist often lately, is that I feel like I'm generally doing "okay", as long as I don't think about the future, or let my mind wander there. I feel okay or sometimes even good, as long as I can stay in the present. Do you know what she said back to me? She said: "So stay in the present." Oh, okay then. Guess I'm done with therapy now. ALL BETTER! ALL FIXED! Thank you for that brilliant advice! You mean I just need to stay in the present and everything will be fine forever? Cool! Awesome! Sometimes my grief-therapist has a hilarious sense of humor. I think me laughing in her face when she said "stay in the present" maybe surprised her a little bit, but its just not that simple. If only my brain didn't find itself in situations that catapult me directly into "the future that never was." It happens all the time, and I don't feel as if I can control my reaction to it. My reaction is extremely emotional, for example, whenever I see elderly couples together, living their ordinary days together that I will never have, as happened yesterday.Read more
February 11 is a happy day for me (also marked with some trepidation) ... it's my son's birthday. He who is so much his father, is turning three.
But since I generally write ahead of time, making use of the time I can sit in front of a computer screen uninterrupted while he's in child care, and I'm writing on February 7, John's birthday is not at the forefront of my mind.
Last night is.
I love my first Thursday of the month. But I don't like why I have it to look forward to.