My eyes flashed open this morning with the spinning thoughts of things I didn’t say eleven years ago. Even with time these things don’t go away. I’ve learned enough to know that all grief is different – that there is some similarity in the names to our emotions but that it isn’t experienced the same for everyone. I can tell you, for me, my family, and many members of the other families impacted that day, that time does not heal all wounds. The wounds do change, they do make room for new life (as I mentioned in my earlier post), but there are times where they still throb and ache. Today is one of those times. I allow myself to sob because I believe it helps cleanse the soul.
If you see my mom or my dad or my sister today please be extra kind. Please don’t make a big deal because that makes things uncomfortable, but just be extra kind. Or if you come across someone else that has suffered loss, has been the unfortunate victim of cruelty, or even someone whose story you don’t know, please just be extra kind today.
I used to write poetry in the early years of my grief. Not only was it my undergraduate major but a way of processing and releasing. I stopped writing poetry after we caught my sister’s murderer … I hope that changes one day. Below is a poem published in Carpe Articulum in 2011 that reminds me (and hopefully my family and the others) that there is still a piece of our loved ones with us always, and that death does not conquer life.
A Separated Existence
Intensity furrows the brow
that stares back from flat glass
and she is searching me searching her
for a sign of existence.
We sit staring at my dark circled eyes
and empty gaze
between the space before my breath
meets her glassy face.
Crouched across the countertop
I remember when the only image
that proved me
When we as little girls stared
into each other’s faces
and balanced the circles on our palms.
During nameless games we took off
running the opposite direction
and collided on the other side of the wall.
With our fingers wrapped
in each other’s we went running
to the back bedroom -
to dolls, to imagination.
And you and I would create
their fragile lives, and they would
complete each other
from day one till the end of time.
I search now this face
to look for dents from your forehead,
her eyes move with mine
and we cannot see you.
I can’t stare at her
lonely face anymore.
I can’t stare at eyes that reflect
a soul depleted from your absence.
So I crawl down from my countertop
and place these cold feet
on the carpet floor – as I am turning,
I see your expression cross my face.
And I am plastered to this glass
writing the story of how
we hung on past death.
* ps the artwork combined with these poems was really lovely and if I can figure out how to upload the photo (all rights reserved) I will do so.
I’m getting married this year. Actually, I’m getting married in just under 4 months. This is a huge life thing - a “for the living” life thing. This last weekend I had my bachelorette party. Despite the fact that we are in the anniversary season, that this coming Friday marks 11 years since my sister’s murder, and that in all previous years I have attempted to wipe July off my calendar … despite all of these things, I celebrated this upcoming life milestone. But it wasn’t without immense reminders from my support system that life is bigger than loss.
Before I explain what I mean, I want to send thank you to my dad who loaned us his lake house, took my friends on boat rides, and fed us two big meals. Thank you to my mom who organized a revealing of the dream dress she had customized for me. And so many thank you’s to my sister, who worked tirelessly, thoughtfully, and openheartedly to create a weekend of memories. They all did this during the anniversary season. They all put a life celebration together for me, even while the all silently ached for R to be there. It never showed, but I know. Their support lifts me up and reminds me of the amazing survival we have all exhibited. We are here, we are alive, and dammit we are celebrating it.
I am also ever so grateful to all of the friends who came out and especially to those who flew across the states, those who spent hours making gummies, those who brought goodies and played games … you are all so incredibly special to me.
Loss can take and incredibly toll on some of us. It can take years to feel as though you are thriving more than surviving. But I truly believe that the difference between those two comes from the support systems that you allow to be in your life. I do believe it is an allowance for these things – every one who came out to celebrate with me (besides my dear family) came in to my life after I had lost R. I had to make a careful decision to let me heart open to each and every one of them. Because when you are so badly bruised and mangled from the loss of your best friend it is incredibly difficult to want to have any one else in your heart. But without these people, I would not be thriving. Without some of these women, I would not have even considered dating my fiancé. Without them, I wouldn’t have even begun to explore how my greatest loss could help someone. Without them, I would have lost who I was, who I am, and who I have the potential to become.
SW (one of my bridesmaids) asked me about the anniversary season when we were finishing a morning jog before heading to the lake house. She did so gently and in a way to feel out how I was doing. Why this weekend? Well, because the dress fitting was scheduled and the lake house was open. Those are the practical reasons why. But then the words came out of my mouth before I had time to process them … “because this year, despite missing R so much, I decided I am going to look life in the face and embrace it.”
Hi, I'm Tiffany. I believe in the power of stories to connect us to each other. I write about life after loss and all the love, longing, and learning that comes from it. Grief is big, love is bigger. My newest stories are about motherhood (after both infertility and loss). In my experience, love doesn't get bigger than motherhood.
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