Days of Remembrance

Today is the second anniversary of Shelley’s death. Two weeks ago MidKid was quizzing Rob about plans for the day and if I felt uncomfortable marking the anniversary. Like most people who haven’t lived this, she is curious about the effect that  “living in another woman’s shadow” has on me. After all I live in Shelley’s house. Sleep in her bed with her husband.

A more introspective person might have trouble with that.

It is a curious thing. I have spent more time in the past year and a half participating in the remembrances of Shelley and her departed loved ones than I have remembering my own late husband. In fact, as I thought more about it I realized I have devoted more time recently to memorializing people I don’t know than I have ever spent acknowledging the death anniversaries of members of my own family. Aside from having masses said, of course, we just didn’t count birthdays anymore or visit graves other than over the Memorial Day weekend. In fact aside from Will, I can’t even remember the specific dates anyone died, even those whose death had a great impact on me and my family.

What probably causes me the most discomfort is that fact that I don’t feel a ton of need to mark dates of death or anniversaries of birth, and so I am at a loss when others do feel the need.

Rob has spent the last several days telling Shelley’s story because he felt it was something he could do to mark the day.

Sometimes it seems very important to mark the day(s) but how to do it is not always as obvious.

Other widowed we know tell their stories. Some about the end. Some about the beginning.

I wonder what Shelley would think about it all. I sometimes think I know more about her than I do my own sisters but I haven’t any idea when it comes to this.

Will would be appalled.

Although I have written about his death, and I did that very early on, I plan to revisit it again only when I write my memoir this fall – and then never again from a specific detail point of view. Most of what I write/have written where grief and widowhood are concerned is about me and the experiences I had. And about moving on*.

Will’s story is his.

I don’t feel right about exposing him more than I already do to the world. He was a very private person. This blog for example would have made him very uncomfortable.

Sometimes – okay, all the time – I feel that the observations of other widowed and the omnipresent role that their deceased spouses take in their current lives is just proof of what a terrible person I am because Will has no role or place now. Often I don’t think about him or our life at all.

My last post about our wedding anniversary almost didn’t happen. The first version was a very angry diatribe about why I can’t romanticize the past and am much happier where I am than I have ever been in my whole life – thank you very much. I still feel defensive about being happy when so many people would go back in a heartbeat. But it’s ridiculous. My life is not open for debate, and I don’t need to feel bad for being where I want to be and happy about it.

The compromise post was just memories. Not great ones but they went with the soundtrack, and the song seemed appropriate to the event and how I feel about it. And most important, they are mine.

But I don’t know that I want to continue marking days**. In fact, I know I don’t. It feels like obligation*** rather than true sentiment.

Shelley died two years ago today.

I owe my happiness to her.

It’s not a comfortable thing to know, and I don’t know at all what it says about life or the universe or God or me.

*I hate the term “moving forward” but I adopted it when I was at the YWBB and posting because it was less incendiary, but what we do really is move on.

** I had already broached Rob with the idea that just he and the girls get together. I am not uncomfortable with gatherings but I am keenly aware that they hold back because BabyD is there and that I am not their mom.

*** Obligation is probably not the best word. I feel I need to be around for Rob. The girls are adults but we are all still children to our parents. I know in my twenties the fall back position when I was around my folks was effortless, and the girls need to be able to lean on Rob and express their grief. They are not as far in their journey as he is because kids of all ages grieve in spurts and in between the experiences that are transforming them.

10 thoughts on “Days of Remembrance

  1. Great post.

    For me, I prefer moving forward as terminology. When someone from Willis’s workplace said I was moving on, I instantly and viscerally felt the need to correct them. Because, for me, moving on implied leaving Willis behind, and I believe that I am taking him with me, wherever I go.

    That said, I, too, have little patience with the endless mourners, and hope that I do not succumb to it often. I find sometimes, though, when I have not honoured my grief enough, that I will be blindsided by a wave of unexpected grief.

    Girl’s description of polyamory has been so useful to me in fully understanding and accepting the concept of more than one true-love or soul-mate. Sometimes they come along consecutively, and sometimes concurrently; all we need to do, I think, is open our heart to the possibility of loving, being loved and being happy, which of course, opens the door to grief and loss, too.

    Thanks for the opportunity to think out loud again.

  2. Silver, I am a product of my early training. Loved ones are remembered through the stories we tell and pass down at gatherings big and small. There is nothing formal about it. I just thought that was the way it was done.

    Stella, I try not to seem as though I think there is one way or a right way, but I do know that I have been strident in my own journey because I have often felt that I was not being heard or that my grief was being recognized as true grief. It’s not just a hangover from the board either. I got it from my IL’s and Will’s friends and a tiny bit from my own family too. Thanks for your support.

    Daisy, I am happy. The terrible thing is that I still feel judged. Mostly by the silence from those I know read this but never comment.

    Girl, I tend to generalize based on the actions of widowed people – family and not – who I know and are years and years out. But perhaps it is just a tomato/tomahto thing. I need to stop reading widow blogs I guess because it fuels the fire.

    Marsha, Will would never say a word to impede me in anything I needed to do – the writing and talking that I engaged in during our infertility days was probably more explicit some times and he let me do what I needed to do though now I realize that it was quite embarassing for him. I still see what happened as something that happened to him and we were just collateral damage. I didn’t suffer anything in comparison.

    tNb, thank you for reading and commenting. Welcome and I hope that you stop back again.

    Thanks to all who have commented. I so appreciate that you come and read and respond.

  3. You made me think of this in a different light. Don was very private as well–he would not like his “story” being published, yet he knew ME better than anyone in the whole world and would, on the other hand, be more than supportive of ANYTHING I needed to do to work through the grief.

    Well said—again my friend.

  4. I am actually one who “moves forward,” rather than “moves on.” I don’t think any generalization can be made about what “we really do,” honestly, because it’s different for each of us. For me, nothing is lost. People who have come into my life and left (for myriad reasons) still come to mind with a regularity that surprises me sometimes. That’s just the way I’m wired, and I’ve always been this way. I still wonder what happened to my best friend in grade school, though I haven’t spoken to her since the 5th grade.

    If it is your nature to move on, then so be it. There’s no reason to judge yourself for feeling differently than others feel. You are who you are.

  5. i tend toward the practical as well… not big on dates (birth or death anniversaries), and feel that we take forward parts of those we’ve lost in who we are (better and worse), how we think/feel and those remembrances are enough for me…

    everyone approaches it differently… took mom almost 4 years to stop reliving the “countdown” to dad’s death starting every January and going through the 4 months as he slipped away… i just listened. not much else to do…

    my blog will (eventually) be his memoir, so i’m doing a rembrance in my own way…

    you’re not terrible… be happy!

  6. You are not a “terrible person,” and there is nothing wrong with how you are living your life. You aren’t trying to force your way on anybody else, rather you clearly recognize that every person needs to deal with life’s gifts and losses in their own way. (((Hugs)))


  7. Have just recently discovered your blog, but this post really resonates. I lost the 3 people closest to me within a space of 8 months; the calendar since then has really been a struggle. Your willingness to be happy is wonderfully refreshing and inspiring. For me it’s an incredible feeling to start moving beyond the guilt. Your words about Shelley have really given me alot of food for thought … thank you.

  8. Wow! We just move on in our family. My mother always said she wanted flowers when she was alive, not dead. My Dad for some reason, thought he needed to check with us when he began to have lady friends after she died. Long after, I might add. I think all seven of us said, “Mom’s dead. Have fun.”

    I’m the family genealogist, so I know the dates. Mark them? NO.

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