Let’s set the scene for a moment:
February 18, 2015 is the 4th anniversary of Liam’s death.
February 19, 2015 is the 15th anniversary of Jonathan’s death.
Today, I was greeted by a warmer than normal winter day with blue skies and lots of sunshine. I was greeted by good people at work coming off of shift, and more good people coming into the station with me. We have been greeted by lots of texts, Facebook posts, e-mails, comments, knowing taps on the shoulder, pictures and even a wonderful poem – all sending their love, thoughts, and support. And this carries us. But…
These two days fucking suck.
I thought for a minute about what words I should use to describe the annual emotions of Feb 18/19. Whether or not I should try to string together a series of descriptions that wouldn’t fail any appropriateness tests, because, you know…using profanity is a judgment on intelligence (which I think is bullshit, by the way). But clarity and understanding are what I seek…not a lesson on how to beat around the bush.
Just like most emotional situations, these anniversaries bring with them a roller coaster of emotion – probably near bipolar at times. Happy to sad, engaged to apathetic, patient to short fuse, committed to tired…and then visa-versa and all over again.
There are two grieving processes that run headstrong into each other over the course of 48 hours. One of those processes is a lot further along than the other, but it’s precisely because of their anniversary proximity that at times they are nearly indistinguishable in their grief.
There are a lot of things that I have learned over the past 15 years, and especially in the last four. But there are two things that stand out above all of the others as ones that feel most paramount this year: Time doesn’t heal. And, relationships matter.
The saying that “time heals all wounds” is an outright criminal statement. Time by itself doesn’t heal anything, what it does do however, is allow things to be less raw. At first, there wasn’t even a five minute stretch where I wouldn’t feel a sickening pit in my stomach; but the longer that goes by, well, I think there are even stretches as long as a few days where there isn’t that pit in my gut.
I have cried a lot – and still do. But time has meant that the need to do so doesn’t come on nearly as suddenly or dramatically. To be sure, this isn’t all about simply time passing – meaning it’s not like we sat in a house and waited for the hours to tick by. This is about the combination of a great support network, a lot of conversation, participation in a grief support group, an amazing family, and a partnership in life with Ahna that …well, she’s just the greatest person ever.
(As if the segue was planned…) There was an assignment as part of the aforementioned grief support group that asked us to think about the people that were there for us when we most needed, and the people that surprised us by their absence. While there were some obvious answers to that question, I didn’t realize at the time how impactful those results would become.
Previously I would have established that two of the most important features in a relationship were blood and longevity. Generally speaking family is important; and if you have managed to stay friends with someone for a long period of time, then that shows a lot about each of you. Actually, I have discovered that neither of those hold the weight that social history would place on them. And even though both sets of people will always have some level of importance in my life, just because we are blood or just because we have known each other for a long time no longer is the pass that it used to be.
Most of my closest friends now, most of the people that I want to spend time with, most of the people that I deeply care about either established and/or cemented their place four years ago. And this group of people – who all feel like family that I have known forever – looks significantly different that the group of people did only five years ago.
In the last four (and 15) years I have tried to not wait for time to pass and to address the emotions as they came. I have tried to migrate away from the relationships that just don’t matter as much, and more into the arms of the people that do. There have been more successes than failures on both fronts, and precisely because of that, I can sit here and openly tell you that these two days fucking suck…BUT it’s supposed to snow this weekend, which means that things will get better.