The days and weeks leading up to The Day that forever marks the death of our child can be difficult. For some, the anticipation is far worse than the actual day, with the first anniversary usually being the hardest, but not always. Many parents fear the one year anniversary day will be as horrendous as the original loss day. Thankfully, it usually isn’t.
For me, the pain of One Year Day was minor compared to the actual day of Hans’ departure and the weeks that followed. I have to say the First really wasn’t much worse than any other day (they all hurt) except I did a lot more clock watching as the time of the crash approached and I recalled what each of us was doing during those final hours and minutes of our old life.
We didn’t plan anything, just did regular life & paused whenever anyone remembered something & felt like talking. We didn’t say much about it, we all knew we were remembering in our own way. The following day (Hans’ birthday) was a little more difficult for me and the week that followed churned up some of the old cortisol left over from the year before and threw it up on my shore. But it was manageable.
I could tell some folks expected me to be a mess on “D Day” as one person put it (yes, really). I could see it in their eyes. They seemed kind of nervous. When the day arrived, I almost felt I was under suspicion of not grieving or of committing the unpardonable faux pas of stuffing/denying the pain. Maybe they were relieved I did not fall apart in their presence; or maybe they were disappointed. Some dear ones remembered with me; or sent a card with real feelings, written in their own handwriting on the inside of the card, opposite the pretty printed sentiment. A few said Hans’ name; most did not.
I suppose I could have shared with them that grieving vigorously, constructively, biblically, and thoroughly (and, except for the Lord, mostly alone) those first months (year) after the crash, helped to later modulate the expected anniversary day emotional upheaval. Much of the hard grief work was done the year before, but how could anyone know that?
So, I kept it fairly together on One Year Day. Sometimes flagrant self-control is viewed as commendable, inspiring. Sometimes it is frowned upon. Not caring much for either, I nevertheless asked the Lord for grace to maintain composure for The Day, for my own sake and for the sake of those near me. Thankfully, this grace was granted, and it made for an atmosphere of peace and of quiet reminiscing as I floated carefully through the day. Grief did not dominate, Hans was remembered; I pray God was honored.
Temporary composure notwithstanding, I am still not “over it.” Those crushing I-cannot-believe-he-is-gone moments still come. But, more often, grief has diminished to more of a dull ache that I drag around rather than a terrifying trainwreck kind of feeling that knocks me over. I have come to see those horrible grief bursts for what they are: sometimes it’s just me missing my boy and that’s OK. But other times (more rarely, now) it is a desperate grasping and clutching to make him BE here – to make him come back. Not good and not productive. I learned early on, if I lose it too much I just don’t feel well and I can easily become a total drag for the rest of the family. And Hans would want me to be happy. I know this because he used to often check to make sure that I was.
So, on anniversaries and on just regular days, I speak facts to myself: On January 11, 2016 Hans was taken up to Glory and received into the company of just men made perfect. This is good news, the best news. Hans is with the Lord, which is far better for him. Hans is happy and safe and I will see him again – maybe soon if Jesus returns while I still scratch around on these ten acres.
Ask the Lord to help you not to fear that One Year Day. Yes, the pain can be fierce and the missing is heavy but you have already been through the worst of it. Compared to the day your precious child left for Heaven, the day the earth moved and your heart was fractured to its core…well, the rest is just aftershocks. And since aftershocks can do a lot of damage, too, make sure your heart and mind are resting on a solid foundation; strengthen it if you find cracks in it. It’s the first step in re-building.