Seriously, who came up with the idea of making the ‘anniversary’ of a death a thing? I feel like the whole first year of my grief I was in such a fog, that I just automatically fell into what society was ‘telling me to do’. (to be clear, no one ever told me to honor Vince one year after he passed away – but everyone does it, and I think I just blindly followed). I did something special—and public—on year 1 and 2.
I’m not one to blindly follow – and yet, I didn’t even recognize that I was doing it.
Deathaversary is a stupid idea. To me. Maybe it works for you (and I say ‘do what works’), but here’s why I won’t be acknowledging that date in any significant way going forward:
- It was a shitty time. Vince was fighting cancer with everything he had. True, he did it with grace and determination. But I’m interested in remembering—and celebrating—his grace and determination when he was fully living. When he was taking the high road in an argument; considering someone else’s point of view; hiking to clear his head and form his ideas. Encouraging me to be kind, more open-minded. That’s the stuff I’d like to remember.
- It magnifies how individual grief is. Vince had so many people who loved and respected him. And their grief is different than mine. Highlighting the day that he passed starts to show you just how different that experience of grief is for those closest to him.
- His disease doesn’t define him. This point is much like #1. He lived 54 years of being an active, fun, smart, loving guy to be around. Celebrate him, yes; but don’t celebrate the day he stopped being all of those things. Again, how did this concept even get started?
- It’s not about one day. Part of the reason this concept likely took hold, was to acknowledge that people who have lost loved ones are in pain. The first year, I had so many people reaching out with ‘thinking of you’-type messages. Guess what? Every. Day. That’s when I miss Vince. Not once a year.
- People kind of expect it. Again, not sure why, but it’s become somewhat of a norm. And if there’s one thing all of this grief stuff has taught me is that I am no longer caring about what people expect of me. Grieving too much. Too little. Too publicly; too quietly. Forget it. I’m doing what’s right for me. And that’s exactly what Vince would have encouraged me to do.
Vince loved birthdays. He sort of had birthday weeks – and occasionally, birthday months. The anticipation of July 12 was quite a build up. His entire family celebrates birthdays in a big way – it’s one of the many things that I love about them. Each year, I’ve taken his birthday off of work and celebrated it in a special way. Twice with a solo hike, once with a visit to see his parents. It’s a chance for me to reflect on the loss of him by myself—perhaps with those closest to him—in a way that is celebratory.
In addition to the every day remembering him, I’ll continue to celebrate his birthday in a way that is meaningful to me.
The day someone came into this world? Yes.
The day someone left it? Not so much.