We are quickly coming up on a year. I can’t even believe that. The last year has passed by in a haze of shock, anger, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, despair, and so many emotions for which there are no words. Yes, there have been happy moments, even some moments of peace. But if I have to summarize this last year of my life, I wouldn’t use many joyful terms.
In just a little over 3 weeks, my daughter will turn 1. We will have a celebration for her, but there will be no party. There will be no cake to smash, no special hat to wear, no blowing out the candle, and no “look who’s 1!” signs hanging at our house. As I searched for invitations to send to my family for the day, I was reminded of how different Vivienne’s first birthday will be. Every option on the market marked a happy celebration, the first of many birthday milestones. “Look at me, I’m 1!” they all seemed to say. We won’t get to celebrate Vivienne and her first birthday in the way that most other parents get to do. We will celebrate her life and how much she means to us, but it will be a bittersweet day.
I have known since August 19th of last year that August 19th of this year would be a very difficult day. What I wasn’t prepared for was the build up to the day. Many fellow loss Moms had warned me about it, so I knew to expect it. But there is no way to prepare for it. In some ways, this build up is easy to explain, and in many ways it isn’t.
The easy thing to explain is how it’s always on my mind. It is constantly thinking about where I was a year ago, that time before my life changed forever. It is always wondering how different things could be if I’d done just 1 thing differently. It is wondering what it’s like to prepare for your child’s first birthday with invitations, cake, and decorations that all fit a happy theme rather than wondering how they’ll react at the bakery when you ask for the cake to say “Happy Heavenly Birthday Vivienne.” It is longing to see her and hold her more than I could ever express.
The part that is difficult to explain is how the build up shadows everything else going on, without my realizing it. I feel out of sorts all of the time. There is always a sense in the back of my mind that life just isn’t quite right. It comes on without my recognition and doesn’t leave. I feel restless, like I should be doing something, but I’m not sure what that is. I feel like there is a dark cloud that surrounds me, and there is nothing I can do to lift it.
As we look to Vivienne’s first birthday in heaven, I know that the last year has irrevocably changed my life, and there is no going back. If I have learned anything, I know that the grief and sadness do not go away – they change, but they are always there. I know there are a lot of people waiting for the time when Gordon and I will be better. I hate to tell you, but don’t waste your time. It’s never going to happen. Over the course of the last year, we are learning to laugh again, to enjoy life, to appreciate the little things, and to hold tight to those you love who love you back. We are also learning to accept that there will always be sadness, we will always miss her, and we will never be whole. We are learning to live with a piece of ourselves missing, focusing on building the best life we can, and to always honor and remember our daughter. We are moving forward, yet always recognizing that the pain will never go away.