Wedding Day a Lesson in Process of Grief

In 2007, my twin grandchildren’s parents died from the injuries they received in separate car crashes. The twin’s mother, our daughter, listed my husband and me as the twin’s guardians in her will. Suddenly we were GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren. The twins, one boy and one girl, came to live with us when they were 15 years old. Suddenly, we were reliving the teenage years.

We attended gymnastics meets, choir concerts, marching band concerts, and other high school events. Seven years passed, and during this time, we melded into a grand family. When the twins left for college, we were empty nesters again. Both of the twins graduated from college with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa distinctions. To our surprise, each of them secured a meaningful job.

Several months ago, our granddaughter became engaged and she asked my husband to escort her down the aisle on her wedding day. Her request was touching because my husband is paralyzed and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. I am my husband’s caregiver and we have outside help four hours a day. On the day of the wedding, our caregiver stayed an extra hour to get my husband ready for the ceremony.

He looked so handsome in his white dress shirt, dark gray slacks, and paisley tie. We drove to the church and mingled with other members of the wedding party, including our grandson, who was an usher. The music began. The groom escorted me down the aisle to my pew and I sat down. My surviving daughter handed me some tissues. “Brace yourself, Mom,” she said. “There is going to be a slide show with Helen.”

Just as the photo montage began, I looked up at the screen. I saw our deceased daughter, smiling and holding a twin in each arm. There were photos of our daughter with toddlers and grade school children. Photo after photo, years passed in minutes before my eyes, and I began to cry. Then the music changed and members of the wedding party processed down the aisle. My husband wheeled his chair slow, with our granddaughter by his side, her arm linked in his as if he were walking.

This picture made me cry harder. Grief – all those feelings I thought were under control – bubbled to the surface. I felt like my daughter died yesterday. Would sadness be my wedding memory? Thankfully, it is not. Other memories, the adorable flower girl scattering fall leaves, the “potluck extravaganza” reception, and the shining love of the bride and groom, are stronger. All in all, it was a beautiful, thoughtful, memorable day.

But I re-learned something I had almost forgotten: Without any warning, grief can reach out and grab us by the throat. We feel the same feelings and think the same thoughts as we did when our loved ones died. It takes immense effort and discipline to bring us back to the present.

Grief will grab us again and again as long we live. Because we loved someone deeply and still love them, we grieve. Still, we can savor the moment and feel joy, something our loved ones would want us to do. We can think of each joyful experience as a tribute to them.

 

Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • You speak the truth, dear Harriet ~ which is why I love your writing so much. This is beautiful and true. Bittersweet memories for sure. Thank you for sharing, and warmest congratulations to you and your lovely family as you celebrate your granddaughter’s wedding. ♥

  • Donna Mayes says:

    Yes, I can relate. The tears broke out of my mask and trickled down my checks.
    I will never get the pleasure of seeing my son walk down the aisle. He died at 19 years old.
    I dreamed of grandchildren who would bring joy to my life…but that will not happen. So I mourn the loss of him, and also an anticipated future daughter-in-law and grandchildren. My dreams were crushed in one second. Weddings are still hard to attend…as are showers to celebrate weddings or babies.