Grief is hard and complex, it’s not a linear upward progression of improvement and getting better, like it is with a broken bone or other injury. Instead it’s something deep within you, a constant ache, something so personal so unique that even two siblings experiencing the same loss feel it in completely different ways.
When you lose someone that you love there are lots of those big “firsts” as we call them. Like your first Birthday without them, the anniversary of their death, the first Holiday season, the first big event where they aren’t there or the first family photo where there’s one less person in the frame. All of these first are expected and others anticipate that these days will be extra hard and sad. Most people think that grieving is about these big yearly events, and while that’s true. There are other anniversaries or reminders that are much more frequent and just as emotional and overwhelming.
I can sometimes struggle a lot on Sunday mornings specifically sunny ones. You see it was a sunny Sunday morning when I got the dreadful phone call at 11:37am. And now sunny Sundays will never quite be the same. Instead they can tend to bring back a rush of details and memories. They take me back to the exact spot that I was standing inside of my church when I heard the news that my sister had been in an accident, and the dreary 5 hour drive to the hospital- where I was mad that what appeared to be such a beautiful day was turning into the darkest day. All of those raw emotions suddenly flood my heart when I walk outside on a sunny Sunday. It’s like I relieve that moment over again and each time it’s just as deep and painful.
Unfortunately though, it’s not just sunny Sundays that trigger painful emotions, but instead for those who are grieving there is a perpetual steam of unexpected memorials & reminders. They can come out of nowhere and seem to ambush you on even your best days. It can be anything from seeing a specific time on the clock, date on the calendar, hearing a song, or even a particular smell.
The reminders are brutally incessant wanting to make sure that you don’t forgot your grief even for a moment, and each time they force you to remember your loss anew. Seeing the number 23, hearing the song Oceans, or when I found pickle flavored candy and without thinking I put a box in my cart for my sister and I was so excited to send her a pic of it so we could laugh about it and take guesses at whether they would be completely nasty or a pickle lovers dream, but instead I had to hold back tears when I had to tell the lady at the checkout to put them back.
Or walking into a gym- hearing the oh so familiar sound of the basketball bouncing on the hardwood floor wishing more than anything that it was my sister’s hands that were the ones dribbling the ball up the court.
These times and triggers aren’t obvious to most people and oftentimes we don’t have the words, emotional capacity or the time to explain them all—leaving everyone else most likely unaware of how often, frequently and deeply we mourn. Our grief can feel like a lonely journey and in some ways it is, because it’s so specific and individualized to our relationship with the one we’ve lost; it’s a personalized wound. Now your calendar is forever changed marked by the time before and after the death and full of grief anniversaries & moments.
You never truly know how intricately woven someone is into every aspect of your life until there gone and you feel the vast void of them no longer being here.