To Remember is Human

As I am now entering the tenth year of my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child, I realize that my perspective on many things related to life and death have changed.  Today (3/3/12), I had this revelation about the expectations that we place on remembering. In this context, I am referring to those individuals who don’t acknowledge our children on those special days such as birthdays and angelversary dates.

I started pondering this when a friend of mine (and one whom loved Jeannine dearly when she was alive) apologized to me because she forgot to acknowledge Jeannine’s angelversary, this year. This is a woman who several times a year acknowledges the love that she has for Jeannine. This, to me, trumps her forgetting to acknowledge Jeannine’s angelversary date.

If the truth be known, as time passes, many people forget to acknowledge our children on special days. Early in grief, their oversights of our children rips at our hearts and tears at our souls. The pain of our loss resurfaces and we may become more disillusioned and confused by the relationships we have with others.

Later in grief, people forget. I have forgotten angelversary dates. It is what it is, a product of the imperfect nature of the human experience. To remember is human. It does not mean that friendships have to crumble because of one mistake or oversight. From my perspective, friendships crumble because of an enduring pattern of behaviors that compromise the integrity of the bond.

On Jeannine’s angelversary this year, I received a couple of calls from two of my close friends and an e-mail from a former Utica College student specifically acknowledging my daughter. There were several of my close friends many whom I have met on this journey, who did not call or e-mail me.

It did not affect me like it did in years past, or detract from the joy I experienced from those who reached out to me. Nor did it detract from the activities that I engaged in to honor and stay connected with Jeannine. I believe that I felt this way because I have begun to release the traditional expectations of remembering in grief.

The essence of who Jeannine was in this life and who I believe she is in spirit is forever embodied in my body and soul. So anyone who either asks how I am holding up or who otherwise demonstrates kindness towards me, not only honors me but all who is a part of me.

To remember me is to remember Jeannine, and any act of kindness or love directed towards me is directed to her. The friends and acquaintances that I have made on my journey have been wonderful to me and have demonstrated integrity in their actions towards me throughout the years. Their continued validation of me means that they have continually honored and remembered Jeannine, and for that I am grateful.

Dave Roberts 2012

David Roberts

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David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC (www.aspireplace.com) He is also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. Mr. Roberts has been a presenter at the Southern Humanities Council Conference in both 2017 and 2018. Dave has been a past workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends. He has also been a past workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Mr. Roberts has contributed articles to the Huffington Post blog, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal and Medium. One of Dave's articles, My Daughter is Never Far Away, can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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  • What a beautiful piece, Dave. Thank you for writing it. Though my journey is only half as long as yours, I’ve started to have similar feelings and understand the “essence” of who my daughter was and continuees to be. Talking about my daughter is easier now, thanks to the support of family, friends, and church members. Raising my twin grandchildren keeps me close to my daughter. They are college sophomores now, maturing, exploring, and excited about life.

  • Hi Harriet. Thanks for your kind feedback on my article. I am glad that you have come to a similar place about your daughter. You are so right about the power of support in our journeys.