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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7 thoughts on “Tracking Grief on the Seventh Sad Anniversary

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautifully put, Robin. It’s so individual and there is no use comparing anything to anything. We are mortal. We lose what we love and when we do, we grieve. Sometimes with anger, sometimes with depression, sometimes with new goals, sometimes with transitions that change everything. From my perspective, you’re doing a fine job capturing the ups and downs of sorry. I love Marika as the Snow Queen.

    Reply
  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    You said it wonderfully and thoroughly, Robin. The path of grief is an individual journey that varies for each of us, and yet we share so much of that journey. I thank you for sharing yours. And what a fantastic snow dress!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      It is amazing how differently we all travel that journey of grief, Lynne. I get inspired hearing about the rituals, the planning, the sadness and joy that people come up with on their chosen (or unchosen) paths. Sharing makes the heaviness a little lighter somehow. Thanks for being out there to witness. That snow dress – I kinda enjoyed that. May need to outfit myself in a snow dress sometime.

      Reply
  3. Monica

    Making comparisons is useless in so many situations, grief included. And it leads to feeling that one is a winner when there aren’t wins in grief. You inspire me to continue creating as we can never have enough beauty. Remembering with you this month.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Monica, I can’t believe how many times I catch myself comparing or scoring. What on earth! You’d think, after what we’ve been through, that we could recognize and control this in ourselves. But I keep falling back into it. Anyway, yes, I hope you will continue creating. More beauty, more thinking and sharing. Thank you for remembering with me. And I’m remembering Lena. And wishing I could set sail to some magical island. Rather than running to Wegmans for storm food each time the weather advisories warn about snow dumpings. Keep warm.

      Reply
  4. Gayle

    Absolutely spot-on and beautifully written. Very moving. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and the hot tub with me.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Gayle. And thanks for putting that hot tub idea before me. Turns out, hot tubs are great places to share wisdom. Maybe we have to do that more often.

      Reply

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