March 1st marked my daughter Jeannine’s eighth angelversary; on that date, Jeannine became forever eighteen. The last seven years have been characterized by intense grief during the days and months leading up to the date of her death. Since Jeannine died of cancer, I would consistently relive the excruciating pain of the last months and moments of her life. I have gradually learned to manage the pain of my loss more effectively over the years. I also believe that reliving the pain of losing our children is another reminder that our love for them never dies.
During the eighth year of my journey as a bereaved parent, I found myself being more at peace with Jeannine’s physical absence than I was during the previous seven years. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when the pain of her absence is as intense as it was in my early grief, but overall I have felt less emotional turmoil than in past years.
In addition to being able to better manage the emotional roller-coaster of my grief, I have developed a greater understanding of the wondrous spiritual relationship that I enjoy with Jeannine, which is ongoing and dynamic. I always felt that I had an ongoing relationship with Jeannine, but my experiences during the past few months have brought to a whole new level of insight. And for that, I am grateful.
I am also grateful for the wonderful people who have graced me with their presence on my journey. I have discovered that the support network I have during the eighth year of my journey is different than it was in the beginning. Many of the people who offered their support in the beginning are not a part of my current support network now.
In my early grief, I would have lamented their absence. Today, I realize that they were just as important to my adjustment to life without the physical presence of Jeannine. I have come to believe that the connections that I made with them were destined to be for a short period of time.
It is unrealistic to believe that our support network will always stay the same. What is important to me is that we continue to recognize the need for ongoing support and stay in relationship with those individuals who can best support us in our journeys. We may make lifetime connections or not, but any quality support we can avail ourselves of is all good.
I have also learned about the power of rituals. Jeannine and I always enjoyed music, separately and together. On March 1st, I put on my iPod for an hour and listened to a playlist of songs that Jeannine and I both enjoyed. During that time, I kept her in my thoughts and eventually felt her presence. Whatever rituals you develop, make sure that they reflect the unique relationship that you had with your child.
“ Change’ll happen whether we are still or moving.” -From the song, “Little Heaven,” by Toad the Wet Sprocket
David Roberts 2011