As my country (the U.S.A.) was awash in memorializations to 9/11, it is appropriate that I was mulling on the matter of death-day anniversaries, something we shove under carpets when it’s not headlining on CNN.
I’m sure many mourners note the date of death and watch the calendar with trepidation as the anniversary approaches, planning graveside visits and other timely memorials.
I am not one of those people.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that ignoring those dates on the calendar doesn’t make them not happen. For years I pretended they would sail by innocuously and without notice; I am a living embodiment of the definition of insanity that reads, “doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”
I did. I still do.
But whether I make note of those anniversaries or not, they are burned into my whole body. We forget, most of the time, that grief is a full-contact body sport. It’s more than just feeling sad or lonely, it is an ache that curls into our bones and makes our heart restless. It exhausts us emotionally and physically until we fall into bed craving sleep that may or may not come. Then we wake up in the morning and wonder, “what’s wrong with me?” as if pretending we don’t know annuls the experience.
Young children put their hands over their eyes and believe that makes them invisible. I don’t think I’ve progressed much beyond that in regards to my own grieving process: “La la la you can’t see me, I’m not grieving!” Maybe a little, but fortunately a little bit counts for a lot.
It took me a long time to get to the point of consciously remembering the anniversaries of my parents’ deaths. Even now I don’t fully expect the inevitable. My own mother’s death day is Sept. 15, but weeks prior to it I still get surprised by the malaise, the anger, the restless exhaustion that precedes it. I get annoyed by the insomnia and frustrated with my inability to focus on the things I need to do (work, grad school—important stuff! But try telling my brain that…).
Death day anniversaries, even those that headline news sites and warrant a national moment of silence, are sneaky because whatever we do to prepare for them, we will always remain perpetually unprepared for the fallout. I’m not sure welcoming those anniversaries with open arms is a solution to the emotional upheaval that accompanies them, although it might be for some people (every mourning experience is different, after all). But ignoring them is even worse.
Whatever we take away from large mourning events such as 9/11, it is worthwhile to note that remembering is healthy, and even necessary. I’m not too proud to admit that remembering is hard, and scary. It totally is.
My body remembers; my heart and my soul will never forget.
By KimBoo York 2011