First steps, first words, first day of kindergarten, all days that live in a parent’s pride vault. Doctors measure a child’s development with the help of milestones as a benchmark of their growth. I remember watching the kids when they were grading for that next belt at karate, it being more stressful for me than it was for them. As parents, we are deeply in tune with our kids; Sam and I call it Vulcan Mind Meld when we are on the same wavelength! And so, when they accomplish a goal or they endure loss, it hits us like it’s happening to us.
Life’s milestones are joyful, hopeful and full of pride. In death, those stages can turn into anxiety, stress and despair. The anticipation of a coming anniversary can be paralyzing and lead to self-inflicted withdrawal, or worse. And the firsts – the first birthday, holiday, special event after loss can feel like a dagger slicing through. Sometimes, the anticipation is worse than the day. I remember my dad’s first birthday after he’d passed. The lead up was brutal – what will that day be like? How will I feel? What will I do? That morning, a 3-year-old Sam woke up, vomiting everywhere. It occurred to me that this was just another day, and life would not come to a screeching halt because it was dad’s birthday.
Our first Christmas without Andrew was going to be awful; I was sure of it. I made reservations to go away which was against our long-standing traditions, but I could not cope with the stress of the anticipation of waking up at home and being either festive and cheery or sad and distraught. It was a tough morning, but the day ended up okay and I made it through.
You can’t predict the waves. Last Mother’s Day, my sister and I were preparing for a lovely dinner for our mom. I got up, went about the morning, and then, around lunch time, it hit. This giant tsunami of grief took over and flattened me for the rest of the day. Bed ridden, ugly crying and guilt for ruining Mother’s Day. The undertow dragged me to the bottom, and I lay weeping, the entire day, by myself. I just needed to be left alone and I knew that was okay – I had to just go through it, to feel it, to process.
This year marks 5 years without our boy. How? How has this time passed so quickly and yet it feels like forever since I last kissed Andrew goodnight? The time paradox defies comprehension. Now, less than two weeks out, I sit in anticipation. What will that day be like? How will I feel? Will it be a repeat of Mother’s Day 2020? My anxiety is greatly lessened by the fact that Sam will be coming home for a long weekend, that weekend. Having her here won’t take the pain away, nor will it prevent a grief wave, but it will fill my heart with as much calm as possible. The plan is that our family of 3 plus my sister and the kids, will have a regular Saturday, and as tradition dictates, have pepperoni pizza and Orange Fanta for dinner – Andrew’s favourite.