I hate this time of year.
I mean, his birthday is hard. Christmas is hard. The day of his death is hard. All that stuff is hard to deal with. But what’s really shitty are the weeks leading up to the death anniversary. All I can think about is how those days traveled by and we had no idea what was going to happen.
In late January, his hair was getting long. I cut it. I wanted to keep it, so I used my label maker and typed out his name and the date. I wrapped the sticky side around his little lock of hair and stuck it in our windowed cabinet where we display special things. “Jay 1.29.13”. Having no clue that the next time I’d be cutting his hair was because he was brain dead, lying motionless in front of me.
A few days later, I bought a plaster cast for his footprint. Those things aren’t easy to use. I tried relentlessly to get it right, placing his little wiggly foot on it over and over until I thought I had gotten the best we could get. The plaster ended up being flawed. By the time it dried, I had decided that I would buy another one and do it again. “Jay 2/4/13” carved into it. 15 days later his hand would be placed into another one by the hospital staff for us to take home. We didn’t get to leave with our actual son. We left with a handprint. Which, as an aside, was worse than the one I did 2 weeks before.
Facebook’s “On This Day” is particularly difficult. Pictures, status updates, all from this chick with two kids that has no idea what’s around the corner. Every year it’s like having to re-watch a horrible tragedy unfold slowly. “Oh, this is the part where the grandmother visits. Here’s where they take a family photo 3 days before he dies. Here’s the last picture ever taken of him…and they have no idea!!” It’s a vicious fucking rerun that I can’t avoid. Even if I stayed off of Facebook, it’s still in my head. Everything we did before everything changed.
My husband and I discussed how weird it feels this year. It’s been 3 years now. 3 years! It’s hard to fathom he’s been gone that long. There is a coating of dust on his urn as we speak. 3 years in an urn. Unthinkable.
And that’s what it is right now: Unthinkable. For so long I was so steeped in it; it was the only way to feel close to him. Now I feel like I’ve run away for too long. Not on purpose, mind you, but I’ve let myself get out of touch with the grief. It isn’t healthy to do that, at least for me. I find that when I stay away too long, it’s torture when it returns. It’s always better to keep your hand in some grief. Let yourself feel it all the time, just a bit, so you can control it. Turn your back on it, and it will eat you alive when you face it again. This is exactly what I’ve done, and it’s going to be a bitch to deal with now.
How do you deal with your grief when this anniversary approaches? How do you deal with your grief when it hasn’t been visited for awhile?