Friday, October 23, 2015

Sorrow amidst the joy

One of the things I keep relearning is that sorrow doesn't go away. It integrates into the rest of my being, to one degree or another, but it's still there and is always ready to pop up and say Hey! Did you miss me?

My birthday is next week. I used to love my birthday, allowing myself a primal joy in the fact that I am on this earth and the earth is beautiful. (If you're interested in some observations on birthdays, just look at any post on this blog published on October 27.) I still love birthdays in general, I think it's important that we each have a day when we are celebrated because there are so many times when we feel overlooked or undervalued. Since Kevin's death my relationship with my birthday has changed.

Throughout this month I've been aware of a greater undercurrent of grief than I'd experienced lately. I've been clumsy and tired, more prone to be irritable. I keep asking myself why am I feeling this way? Things are pretty good these days and, while I know there will always be a Kevin-sized hole in my heart and life, I am no longer living in the state of acute distress that so defined the first year after he died. I still have moments of deep sorrow, I miss him every day, but it's no longer common for me to have days when I can barely get out of bed. So why now?

Ah. My birthday. Kevin was always amused by the way my five-year old self would come screeching into the world around my birthday. For all of October he would smile indulgently as I planned a party or insisted on telling wait staff in restaurants it was almost my birthday (I have scored a lot of free birthday cake with this). It was kind of a game we played, my silliness and his amusement.

I miss that. My five-year old self peeks out from time to time and notices he isn't here. She isn't quite sure why. Some days my almost-48-year old self doesn't know why either.

On top of that, each passing birthday moves me further away from the time when he was on this planet. I was 46 when he died. It didn't seem so distant when I was 47, but now? Turning 48? There's a noticeable gap between 46 and 48, at least in my mind. I know this seems arbitrary, but there it is. I imagine turning 56 will be very hard, outliving him, but that's borrowing trouble.

There are so many ways that I celebrate and remember Kevin every day. Most of the time now I think of him with more love than sorrow. Most of the time now I feel deep gratitude and the pain is muted or at least I've grown accustomed to it. And there are so many ways that my life is good. Next week I will spend time with someone I've come to care for deeply. My friends, who love me dearly and have supported me endlessly for the past 19 months, will gather and celebrate that I am on this planet. I have gigs throughout the week. And yet... I haven't told any wait staff my birthday is this month. Yesterday I remembered with a start that it's in just a few days, surprised that it was so soon, that I actually made it through another year.

All of this and a myriad of other small reminders means that I am sad. These good things are also sorrowful. That's okay. This is part of what grief is; it lingers and re-emerges when we don't expect it. It's triggered by the very things that also give us joy. In some ways I am grateful for this too, because it reminds me of the immensity of the love and the loss.

I still believe in birthdays. It's just a different kind of celebration now.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Dear Laura, this is very moving. I don't (or at least I pretend I don't) make a fuss in advance of my birthday, because I know my husband loves to do that. How different it would be if he were gone. I wish you a very happy birthday!


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