This past Wednesday marked 18 years since my dad died. August 8th has been a day that has been engrained in my brain since 2000. Since that year, I have always stopped at the cemetery either with my mom or on my way to work now as an adult. In 2001, on the first anniversary of his passing, my mom did not let me wear what I wanted to wear that day to school. It was a couple days into my fifth grade year and I’m sure I wanted to wear something colorful and she made me wear black shorts and a black tank top. She pulled me out of school a little early to go to the cemetery so we could get home before traffic was too bad. Once there, we met up with one of our church’s minister that had performed my dad’s funeral and we talked for about an hour about different memories and about how the last year had been.
This year, I had been thinking about August 8th during the past couple weeks. I knew I had to work all day and then go to my grief support group that I help facilitate. My brain consciously knew what day it was, but my brain has also been distracted by a lot of work-related events and changes. This past Wednesday, I got up earlier than my alarm so I decided to get up and get dressed to get going since our carpets were being cleaned and I didn’t have anywhere in our house to sit. I got in my car, got my Starbucks, and started onto work. About halfway into my commute, I looked down at my phone and saw the date. How had I forgotten? I pulled off at the next Walmart, grabbed some flowers, and made a mental note to get off the highway an exit earlier than normal. I still could not believe that I had forgotten what day it was. I know that I would have remembered at some point during the day because I write the date down at work at least 20 times a day, but it would have been too late to stop by the cemetery.
After work, I went to my grief group like I do every other Wednesday evening. This is the group that I started attending with my mom a couple weeks after my dad died to help us work through our grief feelings. During dinner, I was thinking about how full circle my life had come since he died. 18 years to the day of his death and here I was facilitating a group of second and third graders to talk about the death of their own loved ones. It’s amazing how sometimes our life experiences turn into our life’s work. If you had told my nine year old self that in 18 years I would be sitting at these same tables I used to eat dinner with my mom before going to group I would have laughed. As a nine year old, I hated feeling feelings and I hated that my life had turned into being the girl with no dad. 18 years later, I appreciate my feelings and accept why they are there, even if I don’t like them, and my life’s goal is to help children and families work through their grief feelings.
18 years later and I still remember August 8, 2000 like it was yesterday. Some would think that being that long ago I should move on and not be sad about what this day had meant to my family and me. But, as I ironically talked about with my kids this week in group, our grief does not go away. It is something that over time will heal into a small form that we may only feel when we take a look at it on an anniversary, birthday, holiday, or when someone says something that reminds you of them. I want to assure you, no matter where you are in your grief journey, there are still going to be days that hurt but there will be more good days than bad ones. I am thankful that this past Wednesday was not what it could have been, but I know that the 19 year mark may not be. And that’s ok.