Tag Archives: Losing a Daughter

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?





Share Button

Wanting Too Much

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops boulders in her pond.Consider all the ways we cause our selves and others suffering. If, once in a while, we were to borrow another’s view of life, we might find a path to peace.

Late on the second day of excavating to make the pond accessible for swimming, the prized boulder that had been fished out years ago suddenly slipped from the excavator’s grapple and sank into the water, cracking the new concrete staircase as it fell.

“Why is everything going wrong?” I whined to the guy operating the excavating equipment. I didn’t want to yell at this gentle person who, for weeks, had helped me plant flowers and pull up pondweed. He was a Buddhist, I’d heard. But even he was riled now. I’d been greedy, dancing on the deck as he worked, hollering to him over the clatter of the excavator, “yay, let’s move this stone over there next, and that one over here….”

He staggered down off the excavator. Together, we contemplated the maybe-500-million-year-old rock now stuck in the pond on a steep downward-slanting ledge. It would be submerged when the water level returned to normal after this dry summer.
“We can’t just leave it there,” I whimpered, expecting a barrage of cursing. But he simply grimaced, and stuffed his words into small grunts. I sobbed, “It’s like losing a daughter.”
“It’s not moving,” he said. Calmly. Then he gathered up the equipment, and left.

I cried. I sat by the boulder until it got cold and dark out. Grief and shame were like rocks in my gut. My head pounded. The boulder. The Buddhist. All the money I’d spent. Two sleepless nights went by. Then I googled “Buddhist Principles” and found the four Noble Truths:

Pain and suffering are integral to life. When life doesn’t go our way we make ourselves miserable with wanting. If we learn to love what we have and live each day at a time, we can overcome our suffering. We must face reality and open our hearts to change.

In the early morning, the dog and I stood looking over the mess. We sat quietly in the tousled soil by the boulder, long enough that frogs moved in around us. The sun rose. Birds sang. It was beautiful. It was enough. And – call me crazy-lady – I begged forgiveness of the boulders, and told them I would love them wherever they ended up.

What will I say, I wonder, to my Buddhist?

Share Button

Doing Something Dangerous

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops her inherited dog Suki sinking in cracked concrete.In the first sentence of the book I was to choose a word or phrase from, it said, “… about to do something dangerous.” There were easier phrases to choose from beyond that first line, words that immediately painted pictures in my mind, words that would be less challenging to make six photographs of. But I kept coming back to that phrase. About to do something dangerous.

Maybe because I don’t ever do anything dangerous. Or, at least, not intentionally like some blog-sites that scream, “Do Something Dangerous Today.” I hardly ever take risks. After losing a daughter to leukemia, I know peril comes stalking a person sure enough without one’s flirting with it.

Trying to exercise some dangerous behavior to aid in executing the assignment, I squatted behind my camera at the bottom of the college’s huge staircase. Then I walked the halls looking only through my viewfinder, purposefully knocking into students I didn’t know and snapping their pictures.

Over the week, to complete the assignment, I considered what dangerous things I’d done in the past. Like walking alone in the city at night, exposing myself on social media, swimming by myself in strange waters, advertising on Craig’s List to rent my guest room, taking a ride from a bartender I didn’t know in Australia, getting my pilot license, … trusting another human being, getting romantically involved. Earthquakes and scorpions are dangerous, although I’d experienced neither. Rabid raccoons, jellyfish, high cliffs, losing control, … I had experienced. Menacing claws, lightning, lighting a match, and ground breaking beneath my feet are dangers I am wary of. And cancer.

Doing something dangerous has adverse consequences. Like the time I hiked in a slippery streambed, I fell and broke my wrist. When I carried a heavy bag of cat-poop I fell into my front door and broke my nose. Why would I want to do something dangerous?

Early in the week, Suki, the dog I inherited from my daughter, stopped eating. I watched as Doc Orzeck poked around the lump on her throat.
“A fifty/fifty chance it’s cancer,” he said. I held Suki tight for days. We snuggled each night. When she started wagging her tail again, we went for a hike. I fell. I got up and we kept walking. The next days we hiked and walked and sat in the sun. Danger is everywhere. Living your life, or daring to love, or just walking, is doing something dangerous.


What dangerous thing have you done? And why?

Share Button

What is a Miracle?

Marika Warden as a young on a moonlit beach, photoshopped by Robin Botie of Ithaca, New YorkWhat’s a miracle anyway?
For the past two weeks I’ve been glued to the TV wishing for a miracle for the families of Flight 370. In truth, I’ve been waiting for some miracle or another for most of my life.

This week I came to a realization: the miracle is that we live.
Once born, every last one of us dies. But in between being born and dying we get a gift.
For some it is a sweet comfortable time; some end up on a rocky ride. Our lives are lived in peace, in wars; in mindfulness, in oblivion; in isolation, in the midst of masses. We live in beauty and grace; we live in misery and squalor. If we’re lucky we live through good and bad and everything in between.

Some lives last a century and some are very brief. That we got here at all is the miracle. We’re all leaving town; just some of us have an earlier flight.

I need to celebrate the miracle.
We live. I live. And as I live, I will always remember those who were here with me, especially the ones I loved and was lucky enough to share time with. I am grateful for them, for dazzling days with friends, for the sun and the moon, for the privileges I have known, for the wind that makes me shiver and even for oceans that eat up airplanes and hope. For every lesson in life, both cruel and compassionate, and for every day of my time here, I feel blessed.

So how do I live when my heart’s been broken? How do I live after losing my daughter?
It’s a miracle.

What is a miracle to you?

Share Button