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Posts tagged ‘Loss’

When Anniversaries Attack

I expected a grand attack of grief upon the 10th anniversary of my father’s death, but it passed with a poised emotional response at the cemetery and a handful of flowers.

Not so this time. Next month marks the 12th anniversary of Dad’s death. And the ninth anniversary of Mom’s. And the 1st anniversary I’ll spend without their home, my grieving space.ToniProfilePic

How we respond as each anniversary approaches depends in part on the year, month or week that precedes it. Because grief has a way of meeting us where we are.

Right now, I’m in a season of embarking on new things. Excited, yes. But uncertain, too. We tend to run to anchors during uncertain times. After my widowed mother died, one anchor was her home, the place I grew up. Surrounded by their things, I felt as if my parents were there.

That was comforting. Each death anniversary I’d go to their home and go through their things. As the years passed, I finished the job of cleaning out their home. I sold the house in May.

I’ve got an anchor in God, but I also find myself reaching out for my parents during this uncertainty and change. Their loss is on the front row again. And while I’m not exploding in tears, I feel a sort of ache. The loss of the house has awoken the loss of them.

As we approach death anniversaries, we have four possible singular or combinations paths to take.

We may distract ourselves from grief. We may take on a project or go on a shopping spree or spend time with friends. A certain amount of distraction may be healthy, but we should not allow life to press us so far that we don’t deal with our grief.

We may dedicate time to memorialize our loved one. That’s what I did by going to my parents’ home each anniversary. This year, I need to make a new plan. I think I’ll go to the cemetery, but I’d like to do more to acknowledge the loss. Something meaningful. Honoring.

We may dive in or immerse our day in memory and tears. Setting aside time to grieve is an important part of healing. The only way to get to the other side of grief is to grieve. That may look different each year as our grief evolves and as different seasons of our lives unfold.

We may deny our grief or pretend we’re over the loss. That’s the unhealthy way to handle grief. It will emerge in other ways if we deny it a place in our consciousness. Again, the only way to minimize grief is to fully embrace it first.

So even though it’s been 12 years, I’ll bend to grief again in this new season of my life. I won’t deny it or say, “It’s been a dozen years already. Enough!” I’ll be compassionate with myself. And through that compassion I’ll find new ways to journey through grief.

What do you do when anniversaries attack? What’s your go-to plan? What helps most?

 

Copyright © 2018 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. http://www.tonilepeska.com

 

 

 

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Letting Go of Where You Grew Up

I lifted the piece of plastic under the gutter drain and plucked a worm from the damp soil. I walked to the little girl at the end of my parents’ driveway, the gateway to 13 acres of beauty.

She was visiting with her parents, the people buying the property that’s been in my family 45 years. Her brother watched. At almost 7, he was the age I’d been when we’d bought the land.

“Do you like worms?” I asked the girl. I put the squiggling thing in her open, outstretched palm. “When I was a little girl growing up here, I found all kinds of creatures. Like turtles.”House4

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Resilience: Growing Beyond the Barb

I hiked up the hill of the pasture with a destination in mind. Nearly two decades earlier, I had taken the same route after losing the man I loved. He’d abandoned me for another woman.

For as long as I remember, my parents’ pasture has been my go-to place when grieved or troubled. It was a refuge. A place to find peace, even before I became acquainted with God.Barb1

Losing Our Safe Place

What is your go-to space? A city rooftop? A quiet room? A park bench by a lake? Or maybe it is a person. Grandmother. Sister. Or the warm arms of your husband. What if that place is lost? Where do you go to find strength, encouragement and love after that?

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When Loss Screws With Our Identity

We wear internal labels like name tags on our chest. Mother. Daughter. Wife. Winner. Loser. Lazy. Sick. Wealthy. Poor. Sinner. Saint. Do any of those labels sound familiar?

They often come from external voices, from people we admire, or even people we don’t. But the loudest voice we hear is the one that comes from within. Our internal voice.WhoAmI

I started thinking about identity this week after an editor called me an “accomplished journalist.” I liked the label, but it came as sort of a surprise. That’s because my inner voice often tells me I don’t measure up. I wear the name tag “Inadequate,” despite all the bylines that Google reveals, or all the job offers I get. I’ve struggled with that label all my life.

One of the other name tags I wore for a long time was “Daughter,” and another was “Caregiver.” Even after I became “Wife,” I focused on the other two labels, and then my mother died, and I was lost. I was an identity in search of a cause. I poured myself into the project of taking care of what my parents left behind. Cleaning out their home. “Dutiful Daughter,” I was.

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Death Anniversaries: Three Ways to Respond

            I call July “death month.” Both my parents died in July, three years apart. I’ve been through lots of Julys since Dad’s death in 2006, and I’ve noticed three ways I’ve responded.

            We cannot necessarily pick the way we will feel on the anniversary of our loved one’s passing, however, we can prepare ourselves and use the day to further our healing.

            Here are the three Ds we may use to address death anniversaries.

ToniCharlesIsland (2)

Recently on Charles Island in Milford, Conn., where I visited as a memorial to my Dad.

            Distract. I distracted myself with an intense romance after the death of my father, and on the first anniversary of Dad’s death, I was distracted by the impending breakup. My heart was torn up in so many ways, I hurt too much to know which hurt most.

            We may busy ourselves with activities unrelated to our loss. A certain amount of distraction is necessary to weather the throes of grief. Go to the movie. Spend time with friends. But we should not allow life to press us so far that we don’t deal with our grief.

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Uncle’s Letter Leaves Indelible Mark

He called me “doll.” He took me to see the Empire State Building when I was 16. He introduced me to art at the Peabody Museum at Yale. Years later, lying in a hospital bed at a rehab hospital, he told me I was like a daughter to him. But I was his niece. He was my last surviving uncle.

I wailed when I learned he’d died. It wasn’t just that he was dead. It was that I’d missed seeing him once more. Missed helping him into eternity. Missed saying goodbye.

UncleToni16

My Uncle Karl and me at age 16 during my first visit to his and Dad’s hometown in Connecticut.

The first anniversary of his death is Friday the 7th. He lived to be 85. Society doesn’t make much of the loss of uncles and aunts. They don’t typically live in the same home with us. They aren’t in that tight family circle. Not a spouse. Not a child. Not a parent.

But like a parent. That gets overlooked sometimes. After we lose our mothers and fathers, they stand in the gap. They know all the good stories about our parents. They remember our early childhoods, too. They’re like mini-parents, especially after we lose mom and dad.

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