From Grief to Gratitude

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops friendship bracelets around a photo of her daughter who died of leukemia being hugged by friends.Saturday was my daughter’s sixth angelversary. Angelversary is the name bereaved parents often use to gently refer to the date of a child’s death. It marks the day a son or daughter became an angel. Or the day they took up a heavenly abode. I’m still on the fence about heaven and where one ends up after life. And Marika was no angel. But these wretched anniversaries wreak a range of emotions. What bereaved mothers and fathers really want, besides having their children back, is to know their child is loved and won’t be forgotten.

The first few angelversaries I was immobilized with fear and dread, wondering how I could survive the day. Then there were years when I obsessed about exactly how to commemorate such a time: to turn off the phone and stay in bed, or line up back-to-back meet-ups with friends? To curl up and cry? Or celebrate Marika’s life with balloons and butterflies?

“I’m declaring a personal holiday,” I told a bunch of other bereaved parents last week. “I’m going to party and drink and do all the things she liked to do. I’m gonna be really good to myself. Cake. Chocolate. Hiking with my daughter’s dog. I’m going shopping.”

I was going to write about all those things. I was looking forward to barging into the day full force, like my daughter would, feasting on the beautiful free time to do anything I wanted. And then, first thing on the day of Marika’s sixth angelversary, I felt a desperate urge to grab onto my grief again. I needed to drown in sorrow. Feel pain. Cry. Maybe so I could remember how much I loved, and how much that love costs me still.

There was a box of Marika’s photos. The ones from her last years. I knew they would fuel a major breakdown. What I didn’t know was, after the deluge of tears from seeing dozens of photos of Marika being held and hugged in the middle of friends, how grief could melt into gratitude. It warmed me as much as the cocoa, the chili, and the good cheer I found the rest of that day among my own friends.

All the beautiful, wonderful friends. Hugs to those who keep me going. And brimful thanks to everyone who filled Marika’s life with love. She was no angel. But she was loved.

 

How do friends keep you going? How do friends keep you grateful?

 

Share Button

9 thoughts on “From Grief to Gratitude

  1. Monica

    Robin, I could have written this very similarly as it reflects my experience also and it sounds as though our daughters had similar natures as well. Each year feels different on the anniversary and I don’t know what to expect. I always try to have the day off so I’m open for whatever comes. The end of this month is the 14th year, sigh. And this month I’ll go through the many boxes of her things and attempt another cleansing while my heart refills with the memory of her.
    Thank you for sharing your life with us.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Monica, really, there ought to be gold bracelets handed out for 14 years. And yes, I do consider you to be one of my twins. I love thinking about you and Lena, and your lives so different but so similar in many ways. I’m sure if we got together over tea we’d find a lot more in common. As for “cleansing,” well, I feel like I bathe myself in my memories of Marika. I never want to be cleansed of her spirit or whatever is left of her. Unless tears are cleansing. Somehow when I consider the tears, I think of tear-stained faces. Hers, maybe. Mine, for sure. I haven’t had a post from you in a while. Must check to see if I’m still getting your blogposts or if you’ve slowed down with your writing. I’ll be thinking of you as we charge into the last parts of March.

      Reply
  2. Elaine Mansfield

    I have a similar experience, too, Robin. I wonder why I still get in a wrestling match with grief and try to hold it off or talk myself out of it. I wonder why I think there’s something wrong with me because I “dwell” on grief. But then I tell the inner judge to take a hike and allow myself to go down and in and feel what’s missing and what makes me sad. I emerge with my heart open wide knowing that, once again, I’ve touched the Sacred. Thank you for being so honest about your wrestling matches.

    Reply
  3. Gladys Botie

    I see her portrait that hangs over my bed every morning and night before I go to sleep and I remember how beautiful and mischievous her manner was and how happy and fortunate I am to have had such a wondrous granddaughter — even if only for such a short time.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Mom, yeah, I almost forgot about the mischievous part. She was. Remember how she and Greg broke your fan? Did you know Marika used to sneak out of her dad’s place on weekends and find her way back up the hill to the house? Oh the things I used to let her talk me into. Her time was short. But it was magnificent.

      Reply
  4. Stephanie Agelopoulos

    Thank you for expressing how us as bereaved mothers truly feel!
    It is not pretty. I lost my sweet baby girl at 10yrs after fighting Neuroblastoma for almost 6 yrs. This June will be 10 years…I am grateful for everything she GAVE ME, she told me when almost 10 (2weeks before her May BD) ” No more chemo, no more radiation, NO MORE POKES !! I am sorry I could not save her. I struggle every day.
    Socializing is getting harder, I am 60 and want to just coocoon- recently separated too. My beautiful son is my Sunshine ☀️ so proud of him, lives with me but he too is quiet, life has not been easy. You are an inpiration, my friend Kimberly Ryan has met you. If you come to Canada please let me know or if you do workshops.

    ❤❤for our girls

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      For our girls, Stephanie! Forever and for sure. What a brave courageous girl your almost-10 May-girl was. We couldn’t save our girls but they are saving us. All the bravery they demonstrated during their fights to live – that is what we must remember and “wear” for the rest of our time. We are twins. I turned 60 a month after my Marika died. A photo my friend took shows me and my son sitting by my birthday cake, both looking completely drained. It hasn’t been, and won’t be easy but you and I need to be grateful for our sons, for the exquisite daughters we had, for friends like Kimberly Ryan, and for the time we have left here on earth to find and love all the beautiful things we wished for our daughters. Thank you so much for being out there. I’m hoping to visit Kimberly soon. I would like very much to meet you in person when I do. Cheers, Stephanie.

      Reply
  5. Gayle Gray

    I was crying late last night, woke up in the middle of the night crying, and now after reading your beautiful touching post, I am crying this morning. I am on holiday with one of my closest friends who held my hand until I fell asleep. She is out for a morning bike ride so I hold your hand until she returns.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Squeeze my hand tight. I’m only an email away. Let’s try to find a pink sunrise, or one of those laughing-baby videos on Facebook, or rum-raisin ice cream, or something to balance all our crying. I’m grateful to have you as my friend. Cheers!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *