Tag Archives: grief and gratitude

Tracking Grief on the Seventh Sad Anniversary

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a picture of her deceased daughter Marika Warden with a new dress composed of photos of trees in snow, on the angelversary of her death.“I’m so sorry. Losing your daughter is a lot harder than what I’m going through,” a new acquaintance apologized, for voicing pain over the recent loss of her partner, as if her loss should yield some lesser quantity of heartache than mine.
“Grief is grief,” I said, shaking my head. Regarding her at that moment, I was sure if we were to rate our pains on a scale of one to ten, she’d win first prize.

I hate when I find myself comparing or scoring, or trying to measure grief. It really bugs me when people calculate that it hurts infinitely more to lose a child than a mother, or to lose two children over only one. And when someone tells me that it’s time to be done grieving, as if I’m out-of-whack or behind schedule, it makes me growl. Grief adheres to no predictable benchmarks as it rips you apart. Yet we feel compelled to compare; to measure the intensity, the duration, or the effects of our mourning; to mark our progress to recovery. Why can’t we simply accept grief as our individual journeys, our unique adaptations to loss that may eventually lead to growth and change, but could alternatively wipe us out?

Approaching the seventh anniversary of my daughter’s death, I fell into tracking my grief’s path over time. Looking back at my blog posts from Marika’s past angelversaries (now my most sacred holiday of the year), I wondered if I’d see healing. But there was no clear forward movement. Over the six years, I meandered. I celebrated. I wallowed in self-pity. There were anniversary posts filled with fear and dread about how I could possibly survive the day. There were years I obsessed about how to commemorate it. One year I was too busy worrying about Alzheimer’s disease and forgot to write about the anniversary. And last year I started the day immersed in sorrow, and ended up discovering how grief could melt into gratitude as friends surrounded me in support. Progress?

On Sunday, the day my daughter had been dead for seven years, I had sushi for breakfast, hiked with my inherited dog, and followed a friend to a hot tub. After, I gave myself a foot massage and made hot chocolate from scratch with Kahlua. I photographed trees in snow, and posted photos on Facebook. Things my daughter loved. And then I spent the evening lost in Photoshop, wandering in endless layers with her, “How about a new dress, Marika? A snow dress this time. Okay?”

 

Grief is grief. How do you make it beautiful?

 

 

 

 

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Parallel Lives

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a rorschach inkblot to illustrate parallel lives and shared journeys of bereaved parents.As a child, I used to imagine that a double of myself was walking around somewhere else on the planet, far away. Later, when my world expanded to college, instructors and fellow students insisted I had a twin on campus. And when I was busy birthing and raising children, I saw myself replicated in mothers everywhere. But after my daughter died, for a long time, I felt like the only one on earth to ever lose a kid. Nobody was like me.

Last week, before writing my post, I googled “grief and gratitude.” That’s been my focus for a while; somewhere around the fifth anniversary of my daughter’s death, gratitude started sopping up some of my grief. And there in Google was someone else named Robin whose life was like a Rorschach inkblot of my own life. If you folded a map of the US in half, her home on the west coast would be juxtaposed with mine in the east. On the opposite side of the country, a stranger’s life was running parallel to my own.

Four months before my daughter died, this other Robin lost a son who was the same age as my Marika. This second Robin, also an avid hiker and writer, started blogging about her grief journey seventeen months after her son’s death; I started sixteen months after my loss. She wrote, “I am not the same person I was and this loss is an integral part of who I am now.” In over 97,000 words posted since 2012, I have tried to express the same truth. West Coast Robin currently facilitates grief support groups while I organize a bereaved parents group and make bereavement calls for Hospicare.

There may be millions more of us lighting candles for loved ones, posting their photos on Facebook, watching the Afterlife TV series on Youtube, and reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Maybe tens of thousands of us are hoping to publish our own memoirs. And if there are hundreds of Robins howling to the moon, how many of us are now out there somewhere, contemplating the chances there’s a double of our child who died? A twin who’s still singing.

 

Did you ever wonder if there is someone just like you somewhere in the world? Did you ever find a soul mate? Or a look-alike?

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Holiday Tips for Grievers

Holiday Tips for Grievers - Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops herself joyfull greeting the image of her dead daughter walking through the door.If my daughter were to show up at my door on Thanksgiving Day I’d hug her howling, laughing, dancing, throwing myself at her. It would look like the videos on Facebook of veterans returning home being greeted by their old loving dogs.
Then, after the emotional reunion, I’d merrily mess around in the kitchen all day fixing her favorite foods and stuffing the fridge to last a whole week. I’d make her 3 different cranberry relishes and the recipe of pumpkin ice cream pie I found online last week. She would tear the breadcrumbs for the stuffing and make a carrot cake. If she were here the house would have flowers and candles. We were foodies together. And this was our holiday.

Damn it. If I have to cry my way through it, I AM gonna make a pie on Thanksgiving this year. Wegmans can make the turkey and Roses Home Dish can make the sides, but I will make cranberry sauces and pie. There will be leftover-turkey enchiladas and wines for my son who will be asleep upstairs while I work wailing in the kitchen.

This will be the 4th Thanksgiving without Marika. I think I’m learning how to handle this.

Convinced that one can grieve and be grateful at the same time, I’m calling it Thanksgrieving.

So here are my tips:

  1. Treat yourself like you’re the guest. Be good to yourself because a part of the one you love now lives on inside of you. Our beloveds won’t be seated at the table but they are seated in our hearts. So carry on the way (s)he would have wanted.
  2. Allow yourself to cry. Let the pain run out in tears. Pull out old photos, phone your sister in Florida to reminisce, chop onions, and cry like a lemon being juiced.
  3. If you can’t find something to be thankful for, go do something nice for another. In 3½ years of mourning my daughter, I found the most joy always comes from giving someone else something to be grateful about.

So go do this holiday, my friends. You are not alone.

What do you love and remember on Thanksgiving? And who is in your heart?

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