Today is the day I have been dreading, yet looking forward to its arrival. July 16. One year since my friend Deb stepped into eternity.
I have dreaded this date because of the following:
- Memories will unavoidably reoccur—scenes from the ICU, holding her hand even as it grew colder, wishing and praying she could wake up, family loving her as she journeyed Home
- A repeat of what her loss has meant and how deeply this awful emptiness has changed my life
- Empathy grief for her children and family—how they must be feeling on this day
But how could I possibly anticipate July 16 and actually be grateful it has arrived?
The one year mark of the grieving process carries with it a certain relief. I have lived through this year and reached its pinnacle. Now perhaps an extra acceptance will somehow lessen the grief, help me move into the next year with a bit of hope.
In every circumstance of life, I have sought to learn something from the experience. Can’t help it. Life-long learning is one of my core values.
So what have I learned from this horrible event and the past year of ultimate sadness?
- The grieving process is impossible to describe—even for a writer.
- My grief is not your grief, so I must be true to my heart’s feelings and its necessary outpouring.
- One day may be totally different than the next with no clue as to what may trigger a grief attack.
- The importance of women friends who seem to know exactly what I need before I can express it.
- The need for gifted counselors who listen and express sympathy without letting me wallow in my pain.
- The vitality of my faith. Without the absolute knowing I will see Deb again, I would be totally devastated.
- The blanket covering of prayers. They carry us through each day, even when we’re not aware of their presence.
- The importance of treasured friendships and how to focus on my current relationships.
- The need for staying in hope—for looking forward instead of remaining trapped in the loss.
For months, I have thought about my plans for this day. I could isolate myself and disappear into a gallon of comforting ice cream. Lots of chocolate. Extra chocolate.
But instead, I forced myself to ask the question: How can I honor Deb most on this day?
After multiple ideas, I have decided on the following plan:
A visit to the cemetery, some flowers on her grave, a few words of closure, “I miss you. I’m glad you’re safe with Jesus.”
Lunch with the remaining Saturday sisters, this group of women who miss Deb as much as I.
Then a pilgrimage to the Humane Society where I’ll leave a donation to help care for abandoned cats. In honor of Deb and her Sweet Pea and Jasper. Force myself not to look in the cages, not even to consider adopting another cat.
Then return home and go to sleep, eager for the next day—for moving forward past this year of grieving and into a more positive 12 months ahead.
I still miss her—dreadfully—but I can now think of her residing in that place of peaceful joy. I can be more grateful now for the friendship we had and the eternity we will share.
Hope steps forward, certain that grief may visit again, but without the sharp rawness of total loss.
At least—that’s what I’m hanging on to.
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