“Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” -Vicki Harrison
An anniversary is a chance to celebrate a milestone. In fact, its synonyms are listed as ceremony, festival, holiday, and even jubilee. We give greeting cards, send balloons, write cute Facebook posts… But milestones in our life aren’t always the time for celebrating. My mother died one year ago today. I have recently been dreading this day as it began to close in on me. All of the memories and emotions and struggles are fresh in my mind today as I stare at the date on my calendar. The last time that it was September 21st my life changed forever, so no September 21st will ever be a normal day. It quickly grabbed my attention though that friends, family, etc refer to this day as: the one year anniversary of her death. I never really thought about those words until today. Who is this an anniversary for? Is it her anniversary for having lost her life? Is it my family’s anniversary for living a year without her? The connotation that this should be any type of milestone worth recognizing is not only ridiculous but devastatingly painful. There is no anniversary event happening here. There is nothing about this to congratulate or mark as a special occasion. It has been one year since I got to see the most important and influential person in my life. This is a day of flashbacks and mourning, and I can’t imagine that my mom would much appreciate making an event out the date that she died either. The past 365 days have been harder than I could have ever imagined, and tomorrow is just day 366 and it won’t be any easier. My grief process has been less like a journey and more like a train wreck. I spent the first few months in shock and still can’t talk about her passing without panic and emotional distress. This one year commemoration feels like it comes with an unspoken expectation: you should be at a point where you can move on with your life. Everyone’s grief process is different and I don’t expect anyone to understand, but this day only points out to me how hopeless I truly feel. Yes it has been a year, but I don’t feel any less impacted. I feel like all I’ve done today is relive the trauma and reset the clock on another year of the same heartache. Every aspect of my life changed when I lost her. With me being sick and on disability, I only had one purpose- take care of my mother. She herself suffered from severe health problems and I felt it my responsibility to be there for her, with her. To lose my mother when every cell of me wanted to take care of her, to help her to live, makes me feel like I failed. As her daughter, as a person, my one drive was to make sure she had life. That is setting the bar pretty low, like a new mother feels with a newborn baby, just keep her alive. And I couldn’t even do that. I don’t think that time can heal all wounds. There are plenty of trials and pain inflicted during one’s life but you’re not guaranteed to bounce back from them all. I don’t think that I will ever be the same. Maybe after time, another month, year, five years, I may be able to live some type of normal life. But as it stands I don’t see it. As it stands I don’t want to live a normal life. My comfort zone has become one of solitude and grief. To find a moment of happiness is pure guilt. I don’t deserve joy, I don’t want it without her, I can’t enjoy it knowing that she never gets to feel happiness again. She died in pain, sadness, and misery. To ever be normal again knowing that seems impossible to me. I have been to plenty of therapy, three different therapists, in this past year trying to overcome my personal torture. But to me, to feel this hurt and emptiness feels right. When joy feels unnatural I don’t see why I need to force myself into that box of a well-adjusted grieving daughter, because I’m not. I’m okay with the fact that this struggle drags on and consumes my life. Her death was so tragic I believe my current state is warranted. However I’m not so shortsighted or self-involved to recognize that this suffering won’t last forever. I know that, although it will never be okay, things will get better. I’m just not there yet. I realize that most people will say: the best way to honor your mom is to live your life. But I am living and honoring her, I just don’t do it in a way common to the rest of society. Pain has become a comfort, like I feel closer to her. And who is anyone to judge which reaction to death is right or wrong? I will keep living one day at a time, listening to my heart, and as long as my heart is broken I’m not going to hide my emotions by putting a band-aid on it. I love you, mom, and I miss you more than any words can say. Today I celebrate your life, not the “anniversary” of your death.