Today he would have turned 37. It would have been the 13th birthday I would have had the honor of sharing with him.
Today I took our four year old son to his grave where we watched the fireworks show with our friends which was on display at the golf course that his final resting place overlooks.
I remember in college learning about the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle…You know, the whole five stages of grief being denial-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance. Anyways, when Nate died, for months, I found myself on repeat with an internal dialogue that sounds something like this, “I think I have hit the denial stage…Oh wait nope, back to anger and depression. But wait I realize my husband is dead, does this mean I have made it to acceptance? Oh no…Back to denial.”
And then holidays come. Anniversaries. Celebrations. Milestones are hit. And boy, are those monthaverseries of his death a doozy. I always feel like I am going through each of those stages all at once, every minute. And in anticipation for those big days, I try really hard. Like REALLY hard to prepare myself mentally and emotionally. I saw my husband dead on a guerney, so I should be able to handle a silly holiday, right?
Nine months in I have had to face the reality that grief is the longest, most unexpected rollercoaster ride imaginable. I have had to face the reality that I have no control of grief…because my husband is dead. And guess what?
That is Really. Freaking. Sad.
I have had to loosen the reins on my futile attempts to control grief, and today on his birthday, loosening them was HARD. It’s incredibly difficult trying to celebrate when your husband stopped aging at the age of 36.
Celebrating you, without you. Seems like a pretty impossible task, right?
Well…today I tried. I tried really hard.
So, how did I celebrate you without you, Nate? Well, I’ll be honest… There was definitely some booze involved, but there were also moments over the past few days and today when I attempted to embrace one fact…Your death was a snippet of time in your 36 years of life. Yes, it is the single most life changing moment of my life, but dammit, the good you did, the life you lived, the love you gave deserves to be celebrated. So in the midst of tears and a heavy heart, that’s what I tried to do.
First, I spent the past week going through pictures of you on facebook and in our albums (something that i really haven’t been able to do since i put together your slideshow for your funeral). With each picture I tried to take myself back to each moment in time…I tried to remember the positive, the life you lived…the life we lived. And while it hurts to look at the pictures because DAMN I miss you…it reminded me that there was so much more good than the pain I have felt since you’ve been gone. It’s hard to remember that fact sometimes because your absence is felt every minute of everyday, and the pain I feel is in constant competition with remembering the happiness my life with you gave me.
Today, on your actual birthday, we watched the Fourth of July fireworks at the golf course next to your grave. Some of your favorite people came too, and together we all tried celebrating you though the sadness in sitting next to your final resting spot instead of YOU, was overwhelming at times. You gave us an amazing “Daddy Sky” both last night and tonight before the fireworks, and your boy was so excited shouting “that means daddy’s watching with us!” And I am confident you were too…
I bought two six packs of your favorite IPAs and forced myself to drink three of them (because let’s be honest, you know me and Hopps…I have grown to like a few IPA’s, but consuming a six pack is still beyond me). Dad grilled out using your beloved grill, and I made you your favorite homemade cheesecake and let our boy blow out the candles. We watched Joey Chestnut eat 62 hot dogs during the Nathan’s hotdog eating competition (one of your traditional fourth of July activities), and I made creamed eggs and homemade biscuits for breakfast which was always one of your favorites. We invited friends who loved you over and shared stories and memories over drinks. We talked openly about you. We cried. We laughed. Mainly…We missed you.
On your birthday, we miss you. Always, we miss you. I miss you more than words could ever depict. But I’ll miss you tomorrow too. And the next day. And I have come to the realization that I will always miss you and grieve the loss of you. When I am old and grey (if I am lucky enough to get there), I’ll still never understand why you didn’t get the chance to be old and grey with me. I’ll still miss you. But I have also come to the realization that my anger and sadness over your death should not take away from the fact that your life deserves to be celebrated. To find any peace, I need to find and work for those moments of celebration…for YOU, for myself, and for our son and everyone who loved you.
I have learned that while in school they teach you about the five stages of grief, they don’t teach you about what’s in between each of those five stages and how there really is no “order” to grief… There are extreme moments of despair when you physically ache to hear their voice or feel their arms, and then there are moments of self discovery and exploration when you begin the process of figuring out who you are on your own (I am learning that step will most likely start and stop numerous times). There’s stages of confusion. Desperation. Isolation…deep feelings of loneliness and darkness and shifts in identity…and yes today I have come to realize, there are even moments of happiness and celebration for a life well lived. Though they may be fleeting right now, I am going to continue trying to run with those moments and hope that with time, these moments occur more often and last longer.
I’ve realized that this rollercoaster that is grief has no stopping point. Each day I have to buckle up for a new ride…My only hope is that with time, the dips and turns get a little easier to bare and that maybe eventually, I’ll find myself sitting back with my hands in the air, willing to go along with the ride, praying you continue to ride next to me in spirit.
Happy 37th birthday to my hubby…his first birthday up in heaven.
Today, I celebrated you without you.