Today is March 3rd. That means it’s Julian’s first Angelversary. One year since the worst day of my life. The last milestone in a year of unimaginable “firsts.”
The first time I woke up, convinced it was all a horrible nightmare… and later, the first time I woke up and knew it wasn’t. The first time I laughed… and later, the first time I realized I had gone a whole day without crying.
The first of his birthdays without him; the first of my birthdays without him. The first Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; the first Christmas and New Year’s. The first time someone asked me how many children I have; the first time I heard Oscar refer to himself as “an only child.”
There’s a surprising amount of relief in reaching the last of these firsts, the first anniversary of his death. Perhaps the only thing I’ve heard about grieving that might be universally true is, “the first year is the hardest.” And as of today, my family and I have survived that year. It’s behind us now. Another bereaved parent recently told me, “it never gets better, but it does get easier.” I believe that will be true for us, too.
Today, I’m thankful for many things. In this particular moment, I’m thankful that my parents encouraged John and I to take a week off of work and take Oscar out of school to join them in Mexico, at the resort that we spent many family spring breaks growing up. I’m thankful that we agreed to it, despite the fact that we had already planned a vacation for the end of March. It’s peaceful and relaxing here, and I’m grateful to be able to spend this day with my husband, oldest son, and parents.
Today I’ve been reflecting on how I have changed in the past year, as I listen to the waves crashing nearby. As irrational as it seems now, I remember that in the first days after Julian’s death, I felt a very real fear that I would somehow forget him. I also started feeling internal and external judgement about my grieving process — as if intense grief indicated intense love, and healing from grief indicated a lack of love. And if I stopped grieving, I would forget him.
But with time, I gained confidence in my own approach to grieving and healing. Thankfully, I eventually came to the conclusion that Martha Whitmore Hickman described so eloquently in Healing After Loss:
“Of course time eases our grief, provided we let it follow its course and give it its due. Few of us would want the intensity and desolation of early grief to stay with us forever. That’s not what we’re afraid of.
But we may be afraid that we’ll lose the intensity of love we felt for the one we have lost.
At first these two–the grief and the love–are so wedded to each other that we cannot separate them. We may cling to the grief in desperation so we will be sure not to lose the love.
Perhaps the grief and the love will always be wedded to each other to some degree, like two sides of a coin. But maybe after a while, when we flip the coin, it will almost always be the love that turns up on top.”
Today, I’m thankful that in fact love almost always does turn up on top. I’m also thankful that a year has passed and I can say with all certainty that he isn’t alive, but he isn’t gone. I still have a relationship with him. I see him everywhere. I see him in my dreams. I saw him in the whales that appeared a short distance off the beach this morning, despite the fact that they weren’t expected for a couple more weeks. I see him in every sunset.
Sometimes, even in Mexico, the sunset is obstructed by clouds. But that doesn’t make me question whether or not the sun exists. Similarly, even if I don’t see or feel him, I know he’s there. A year ago I was afraid he was gone forever. Today I know he’s with me always.
Today is the first anniversary, the last of the firsts. And as my mom said to me just a few minutes ago, “It’s a good day.”
Darlene J Lund and Tom
March 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm
So proud of you! So proud of your journey…a year long journey that took you many places, physically, emotionally and mentally. We are proud to have journeyed that path with you and your parents…Julian too. God Bless you on your next journey, May it bring the peace that passes all understanding. The Lunds.
March 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm
I’ve re-written this post a good 3 or 4 times now, trying to find the right words to say. I can’t. Just know that my thoughts and prays are with you and yours, and Julian as well.
March 3, 2012 at 4:22 pm
Thinking of all of you today and so many more as well. Know that Julian is with you, in the waves, the clouds and the sun set. Thank you for sharing yourself and your thoughts this last, long year. You are remarkable.
Kristin Zima (@kdzima)
March 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm
Beautiful post Emily…it looks like you are truly finding your ‘new normal’. Peace to you, John and Oscar, enjoy your sunsets and waves, and yes, little Julian is always with you.
March 3, 2012 at 10:04 pm
Lovely post. Your spiritual insight and openness to share is very moving and hope giving. Thank you for sharing your journey.
March 4, 2012 at 2:46 am
John, Emily and Oscar, want you all to know that I”ve been praying for you and will continue to pray for you. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, may the God of peace continue to comfort your hearts, mind, body and soul. May you depend on Him in times of needed strength and grace. I pray that His grace will be sufficient for you as His strength is made perfect in your weaknesses. We met very briefly the evening of Julian’s last struggle. Wish we met in a different way but grateful all thesame that this ordained meeting happened. It is a priviledge and honour to have been there and to continue to pray for you. Julian will always be beautiful and precious to me. God bless you.
March 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm
Emily, as usual I am astounded by your eloquence. Your writing brings tears to my eyes, and I’m grateful to you for sharing your experience.
Leanne (Trebilcock) Avila
March 5, 2012 at 9:52 am
Beautiful. I, too, might have a few tears in my eyes. 🙂 Thinking of you and your family… now and always…
March 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm
I am now getting into my “2nds.” Not sure how I made it through the “1sts”; think it was cloudy. Now, I feel somewhat more saddened this year. Maybe I am beginning to get clarity back, so the emotions are becoming more real and raw. Sorry for your loss.
March 7, 2012 at 7:37 am
I have read all of your posts and through them felt your grief, loss, love and healing. I’m glad you are able to see light each day.
March 7, 2012 at 9:31 am
Wise words. The gratitude and grace shine through! So glad you tool some time away and apart with your family and observed the anniversary in a place close to nature. Peace Happens!
March 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm
Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. I have learned so much from you during this past year. My thoughts and prayers are with you, John and Oscar today and every day.
Beth Temple (@bethtemple4u)
March 8, 2012 at 9:35 am
As always you have the most eloquent voice on this subject and I’m honored to read it. The thoughts so personal and so powerful. Thank you.
Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective
March 9, 2012 at 10:08 am
Beautiful post. As one who hit the decade mark on March 3rd of the anniversary of our son’s death, my heart goes out to you.
My Angel, You Are Loved
March 10, 2012 at 9:01 pm
You wrote such a beautiful post and I thought the piece from “Healing After Loss” was well written as well. Since my friend lost her child, I have learned so much. I have found that I appreciate and grow from the openness and raw honesty that parents, such as yourself, have shared so graciously. Though I don’t know you, I thank you for sharing your son’s story. Sarah
Jan Baaden Gee
March 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm
Emily, you write so beautifully. Another way Julian comes shining through!
March 13, 2018 at 2:25 am
How is Oscar thru all this? Did his personality or attitude change at all? Did he need the outreach of a therapist or clergy? Was he clinging, distant or as the oldest got it all together in a matter of fact easy going way or insecure/unsure maybe trying too hard? Have you as parents become more attuned to him, closer, present in his goings?
March 13, 2018 at 8:15 am
Oscar has ups and downs, but at this point the loss of his brother is woven into the fabric of who he is. He just turned 7 when Julian died, and we didn’t take him to therapy right away but we explained what it was and invited him to ask for it if he ever felt that would be helpful. Two years later, he did. So at 9 years old, I took him to a wonderful therapist that specializes in children and trauma. He learned some important tools for managing his grief. Today, I think he’s more resilient, thoughtful, and empathetic than most kids his age. I guess we all are.