Why Ignoring Anniversaries of Loss Doesn’t Work

Nearly three weeks ago, on March 30th, it was the six month anniversary of my  baby daughter Josephine’s stillbirth. I approached the day with a bit of dread, worried it would send me back and undo my recent period of emotional improvement. I tried to decide what to do…plan a trip with the kids to Science World to distract myself, or invite fellow babyloss moms over to honour the day. In the end, because of a tummy bug, we did neither.

I tried to truck through the day, homeschooling the kids, keeping them fed and occupied, and not allowing my emotional guard down too far. Around 4 pm my sweet friend Kate stopped by with a little pot of bright yellow flowers and homemade chocolate chip cookies. “It’s a day for chocolate,” she told me.

This little visit and chat outside her car (which was full of her own 5 kids who were sick), meant so much. Her kindness in acknowledging my grief gave me the freedom to release it a little. It often takes the hug of a good friend to bring out those hidden tears that are lurking inside like saturated storm clouds, waiting to fall and wash your heart clean again.

The kids, always happy for any birthday, ate Josephine’s half-birthday cookies with gusto as we walked over to the graveyard accross the street where she is buried. We brought her the yellow chrysanthemums, and the kids gathered sticks to make a little enclosure around them.

After this, we took some anniversary pictures, and the kids talked about how big and beautiful baby Josephine is now in Heaven.

  

Their assurance that she is safe and happy shines through their smiling faces. For them, Heaven is very real, and very close. Once my oldest said,

“Mummy, it’s kind of good Josephine died and went to Heaven.”

“Really, why?” I asked.

“Because then she’s right with us all the time, just like Aslan, and never even as far away as if she was sleeping on the couch when we are in the kitchen.”

Kids really get it that love breaks down all barriers, even that of death, and keeps us together.

It is true, but I am little Jo’s mummy, and want to have her in my arms, so while the other kids played happily in the graveyard, I sat by her grave and cried. It was around 5 pm, the time I had been in early labour, when she had quietly passed away from the tight cord around her neck.

The kids hunted for dandelions and blossoms and went about placing them on graves with no flowers, “so they’d have some.” After this we went to the dollar store and everyone was allowed to chose a new colouring book in honour of Josephine’s special day.

Perhaps it seems that we did a fair bit…we at least did something, but it wasn’t enough really. Except for a call from Laura, one of my best friends, who remembered, the day was spent very much alone. I had asked a few friends for extra prayers that day, but that was all. It is a lonely feeling to be living the anniversary of a tragedy when for almost everyone else it is just another day. The very cars driving by so blissfully unaware seem rude. You unreasonably want them to stop, or a least drive slowly, as in a funeral procession.

For me, the next day was not March 31st, it was November 1st, the day after her birth, and the day I came home from the hospital without her. The awful quiet of no newborn cries or coos.

I wanted to write all about it then, to reach out for sympathy and support, but it can be hard to keep talking about loss. Sometimes you feel bad to burden others with your pain, but when you keep it inside it grows claws and shreds it’s way out…so it’s much better to come out in tears.

But like I said, sometimes only the loving acknowledgment of your suffering by others releases them….enables you to drop your stern guard and be vulnerable. This involves telling others what you are going through, so they can walk you through it, or sit with you in it, or whatever it may be.

So I encourage everyone who is suffering some kind of loss, to reach out to others who love them and ask for support, to acknowledge what is happening inside and not try to bury it inside to fester. Put your anniversary of loss on the calendar, own it, do something special on it. And if possible, don’t do it alone.

I’ve been told we can only get through grief by going through it, and anniversaries, as hard as they are, are an opportunity to move through it…rather than remaining stuck in grief by denying it…so don’t skip them. No one gets better by saying “La, la la!” and pretending nothing happened. Sadness grows in darkness and isolation, so let the light of love, that of family and friends, shine upon your soul.

Light a candle, release balloons, have a prayer circle with close friends, make a fancy dinner and toast your loved one lost, or whatever it is that honours the day, and lets you know it’s ok that your grief is still raw, whether it has been 6 months or 10 years.

 

14 thoughts on “Why Ignoring Anniversaries of Loss Doesn’t Work

  1. well done good and faithful servant- your little girl’s remark brought tears to my eyes- she is absolutely correct, your baby is present to you at all times in your spirit but a understand the sadness knowing she missed out on experiencing life on earth

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh sweet Anna…my heart is breaking for you. Your words are so raw and real. I’m so glad you have an outlet to express how you feel. You will be helping so many others. I can’t wait to give you a big hug on Monday! You’re always in my prayers sweet friend! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. teressa.olson@yahoo.ca

    Wow, very powerful writing. Reading your post brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine the sense of loss you must feel. I am not a graceful writer nor speaker, and I have a difficult time with emotions, thus I never know what to say to one who is grieving. There is so much to say, yet how do I phrase it as to not sound insensitive, or corny or that I just plain do not understand… Those selfish worries bring me to say nothing at all. I often think of you and the kids, and I say a little prayer. You give me inspiration to be a better Mom and to see beauty in everything. Mary’s insightful comment made me smile… It really shows you are raising them right – a very faith based point of view.

    God Bless, Teressa

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    1. Thank you, Teressa for sharing these very beautiful and encouraging thoughts! So grateful for your friendship and all those quiet prayers which support me behind the scenes. God bless you!
      Anna

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  4. Janet Eastland

    Wonderful and inspiring ! As I was reading this a family who had bean through similar circumstances was on the news hour last night along with a doctor who were encouraging parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles , friends and grandparents not to be afraid of sharing their sorrow, the good and the sad moments . They are all very necessary in the healing process. You and James should be very proud of how you have taught the children how to love and care.
    It touches their grandma’s heart. I love you all and keep you in me prayers. I also miss my sweet baby Josephine and grieve for her often. Remember that even if we seem to be going through this alone and that nobody seems to care, our dear Lord is always holding us up in His hands and is there to listen. Love Grandma. 💞

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  5. Pingback: A Catholic Collection of Gifts and Resources for Pregnancy and Infant Loss

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