The 10th anniversary of my daughter’s death is a few days away. I thought I was prepared for this anniversary, but I wasn’t. Instead, I have burst into tears several times. My daughter, mother of my twin grandchildren, died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Six months later he twins’ father died from the injuries he received in another crash. The court appointed my husband and me as the twins’ guardians.
A few days before the anniversary of their mother’s death, the twins were going to celebrate their 25th birthdays, and receive their mother’s legacy. To mark the occasion, my husband and I were going to host a family dinner at a local restaurant. Since both twins were interested in home improvement, we decided to give them gift cards from Home Depot. I went to the store, selected two gift cards, and proceeded to checkout. The woman at the cash register wore a hijab, the modesty scarf Muslim women wear.
“These are generous gifts,” she said. Her comment triggered something deep inside me.
“Well, it’s a special occasion,” I replied. Suddenly my mind went back in time to my daughter’s death and the other three family members who died that year. “My daughter was the mother of our twin grandchildren. Their parents died in separate car crashes. They were 15 when they moved in with us and my husband and I cared for them for seven years. These cards are for their birthdays.” Then I blurted, “Now I’m going to cry.”
The checkout woman was so touched she started to cry too. She reached across the counter and gave me a big hug. “I’m so sorry,” she said. Both of us tried to get our emotions under control, but we couldn’t. She proceeded to tell a story more tragic than mine. I cried harder and she cried harder.
“Your daughter is in your grandchildren,” she said, trying to comfort me. The woman reached for a box of tissues, handed me one, and took one for herself. What a pair we were, two bereaved women from different cultures, different religions, and different experiences. Yet we were bonded by grief. I paid for the gift cards and left the store. On the way home I thought of something Alan Pederson, Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends, told me. We were about to record a program for Open to Hope Radio and chatting beforehand. I told Alan how I cried unexpectedly at the dinner table.
“The 10th anniversary is a big one,” he said. Now I know what he meant.
Other bereaved parents have also learned the power of the 10th anniversary of a child’s death. One person is blogger Sukey Forbes. She wrote a letter to her deceased daughter, Charlotte, and posted it on her blog. In the letter she tells how she decided to make life her daughter’s legacy. Impossible as this decision seemed, Forbes felt it was the “only true course” for her. Later in the letter she tells Charlotte, “I learned how to be a warrior from you.”
I learned how to be a warrior, too, and it surprised me. Why is the 10th anniversary so powerful? I think there are two reasons, one physical, and one mathematical. We have 10 fingers and 10 toes and are reminded of this every time we bathe. Americans tend to mark the passage of time, even history itself, in decades. Many things can happen in a decade. In the last decade my grandchildren graduated from high school, went to college, graduated from college, and found jobs they enjoy. Brace yourself if the 10th anniversary of a loved one’s death is approaching.
Get ready for old memories to re-surface and for unexpected tears. Don’t berate yourself when you cry. Tears are proof of your love and it lasts forever.Tags: anniversary reactions, bereavement, coping, coping with grief
Outstanding, dear Harriet, as usual! Blessings to you for sharing information that is so important for all of us to know: those who are in mourning and those who endeavor to support them.
Thanks for your comment Marty. This was an interesting and odd experience for me. Since then, I’ve cried another time unexpectedly. The anniversary of Helen’s death is February 23rd. Maybe I’ll be cried out by then.
This year was the 8th year since my husband died. I guess its ok to write about it here. I am already dreading that 10 year anniversary date and I still have 2 years to go. My husband’s funeral was held on Valentine’s Day. This wasn’t by my choice but his other family members. Now when everyone is celebrating their love, I’m going down memory lane.
I’m sorry for your loss Connie. On Valentine’s day you may still celebrate the love you have and will continue to have for your husband, and his love for you.
As I read your “Home Depot” story, I began to cry. Death comes to all of us, regardless of our age, religion, ethnicity, etc… I too, have shared my sorrow with complete strangers, which is so unexpected, but when the tears start, it’s so hard to control them. Like you, I have bonded with strangers, as grief hurts and only someone who has experienced it, will understand your pain.
In a nutshell, I’ve been searching the internet for support groups, help, etc…for those of us that have experienced multiple losses within a short amount of time.
I would like to share my story and keep it brief. I was happily married to the love of my life for 25 years, then the unspeakable happened. My husband became extremely ill with heart failure and cancer. I was his caregiver for about 3 years. He finally “went to his heavenly home” in December 2014.
Within 6 months, my elderly parents were starting to decline. My father died in August 2015. My poor mother didn’t even know how to live without him. Her only sister, my Aunt, died 2 months later, in October 2015. Needless to say, her death was devastating for my mother and me. After that, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in February 2016. Looking back, God was my refuge and strength, as I did what I had to do. Now that time has passed, I find myself grieving all over again. I continue to see a grief counselor, which has been helpful. I do not want to burden my friends with my enormous grief, as they are tired of consoling me and watching me cry uncontrollably. It is hard to put that mask on time after time of being “OK”.
I have recently started to isolate myself “again” from my friends, church friends and my son. I really am quite alone, as I was forced to move after my husband died.
I feel fear, as I don’t want to leave my condo. I just want to be left alone. I also find myself sleeping during the day, as I’m up all night. Worse of all, I am starting to abuse my pain meds, which really scares me! (I am disabled and live with chronic pain).
On Harriet, I can’t imagine my life ever being truly happy and fulfilled again. I hate it when people will say, “you’ve got to find your new normal”. What does that even mean??? I’m 59 years old, but feel dead inside. I long to be with my loved ones again, only when I’m called by God.
Are there resources or online support groups out there for people like me?
In my heart, I would love to turn these sorrows into helping others, but realize that I first must be emotionally healthy before I can help someone else.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story. Also, thank you for sharing your life’s journey with countless people.
Thank you for your post Cynthia. What a journey! Helping others helped me to come to terms with multiple losses. However, I think it’s best to wait until you’re feeling better to do this. I write for The Caregiver Space and it may have some articles about the end of caregiving and moving forward in life. The Grief Toolbox may also be a source of help. I’ve written several books about grief recovery and one that may help you is published by WriteLife. Keeping a journal is helpful and allows you to see life more clearly. Journaling can also help you find solutions and plan a future. The good thing about journaling is that you don’t do it every day, like a diary, you make entries regularly. I send you my sincere sympathy for all your losses and hope life looks brighter soon.
Your story of multiple losses is similar to mine. In truth, we don’t find a new normal, we create new lives for ourselves. I think you would benefit from talking with a grief counselor. A few visits could really be helpful. Just as I needed to tell my story, you need to tell your story because it is healing. Start putting your story into words via a journal or computer file. Did your husband have any hobbies? You could donate a book or two about a hobby to the local library, something that would help others. Helping others has helped me to heal. The local hospital, if there is one, may have a grief support group that you could join.
This month is the 10th anniversary of my special child’s death and it is hitting me much harder than I could have ever imagined! Thank you for this article. I have written a letter to my son.I am feeling a little better because of it.