Not long ago, I had lunch with Jacob, one of Charles’ close friends and someone with whom he grew up with. He asked if we were going to have a get together like we had a couple of years ago. I asked if he thought people would be able to come. And they were.
We decided to spend time with family for the second grief anniversary since Charles’ death by suicide June 5, 2015. I have found that having plans is crucial to surviving these significant dates: birthdays, death anniversaries, holidays.
My inlaws drove up from Georgia and we drove down from Virginia to meet in Winston Salem to see my oldest son Richard (where he currently lives) before he moves to LA on July 1, 2017.
The last time we were at this Old Salem restaurant, Richard was about to graduate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts with a degree in filmmaking.
Charles, my youngest son, was not with us for that May 2015 graduation. He was in rehab for a heroin addiction. So it was Richard’s college graduation, our house was about to go on the market and Charles was in rehab.
I thoroughly enjoyed Richard’s graduation that year and I was both relieved and sorry Charles was not with us. He loved family events. But I knew he needed to be where he was and I finally felt he was safe. That graduation weekend was the first time I had had fun in a long time. And it proceeded the most devastating loss of my life by mere weeks.
Less than a month later, on June 5, we got the news Charles died by suicide. Such a contrast of life events in a short span of time.
For me, my deceased child’s birthday is the worst.
This year, the days leading up to the death anniversary have been more of a dull ache punctuated by bursts of being short tempered and not as productive. Occasional breakdowns but overall better than last year. I do feel like I have turned another corner. Time doesn’t heal but it does help.
Last year I was prepared for the death anniversary. But not for Charles’ birthday April 26, Mother’s day in May, Father’s Day in June, then the death anniversary June 5 and then my own birthday June 18.
The stretch was pretty brutal last year. I’m not going to underestimate it this year. I didn’t think of all those special days and what to do for those.
The trick is to make plans. Do something to celebrate life. His life. And mine. I’m not trying to avoid grief simply trying to prepare for it. Not making plans for those days will kick me in the @$$.
That’s the trick.
Not letting certain celebrations sneak up on you. I learned that this past holiday. I thought it would be easier than the first holiday with Charles since his suicide. But I was still numb at only 6 months out and had just moved into a shiny new house which kept me occupied.
The holidays hit me like a tsunami. The whole shopping season just devastated me.
So headed into my grieving season, I’m planning for it this time. Setting expectations that there will be hard days and not overwhelming myself with too much and allowing time to grieve.
Because I’ve learned.
When is your grieving season? What do you have planned?