Many people refer to the date of their loved one’s death as an anniversary. I can’t bring myself to do it. It actually makes me cringe every time I try to say it or explain what October 9th means to me. The word “anniversary” has an intended association with joy, celebration, and happiness, so why would I want to acknowledge the loss of my beloved Zach with this word?
None of us ever imagined having to say good-bye so soon, so suddenly, so tragically to the ones we love, which leads me to believe that none of us are feeling particularly celebratory as the date draws near. We all have that one day. A day filled with dread and loaded with dismal realizations; our own person D-Day. No, I can’t bring myself to call it an anniversary so “death-versary” it is. Sounds a bit morbid, I know. But how else can I honestly begin to approach this day?
October 9, 2012 marks the one year death-versary of my fiancé, Zach. It is unimaginable that he has been gone that long. I have alternated so many times over the last year between feeling like he was just here a minute ago and feeling like he has already been gone for four lifetimes that I think I have given myself whiplash. Life has continued to go on while I feel frozen in place. Days have come and gone, and yet I feel like nothing has changed. Over the last year my friends have gotten married, had babies, gotten new jobs, found new boyfriends, and bought houses. My crowning accomplishment is that I woke up every day and went to work or school. I got out of bed. Seriously? That is my accomplishment? That is all I have achieved? Is that really all I am capable of doing now, without Zach? I guess I should see it as surviving, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my aspirations should be higher than just getting by.
Whether I like it or not, the first year has passed. One whole year without the person who gave my life meaning and filled my heart with unimaginable amount of love. So how am I supposed to acknowledge this day? How are any of us, the unwilling members of “Club Grief,” supposed to recognize this day for what it stands for? For most of us this day signifies one of the absolute worst days of our entire lives, filled with loss and devastation, questions that can never truly be answered. So how should this day be spent? I wish I had the answer, any answer, but I think every single one of us must slowly live our way into our own answers.
I truly believe that even among those grieving the loss of the same person, there will be differing opinions about how to approach this day. Some members of the family may want to do something to commemorate the day while others adamantly refuse. Throughout grief we are forced to constantly make decisions like: what to do with their belongings, how to celebrate the holidays, what traditions to continue on with. These difficult decisions are ones that family and friends may agree with or firmly disagree with. The death-versary is just another one of those decisions and one I am currently faced with.
As October 9th has slowly crept closer I have been questioning what his family and I should do. My initial plan was to organize a fundraising event in his memory and donate the money to the school Zach had been working at. He had recently switched from teaching to being the Parent/Teacher Liaison, a Social Worker of sorts, for a county with tremendous struggles and needs. The resource center he created during his time there was renamed the “Zach Zone” after we lost him. The teachers have continued his work and tried to fill the gaping void he left behind, but there are still many community needs such as food, clothing, and school supplies. I thought organizing an event for this would be the perfect way to honor his memory, his life, and his work while giving something to the community he did so much for.
But as this day got closer and closer, my plan started to lose its appeal. I didn’t think I had it in me to coordinate an event like this and his parents agreed it’s just too soon. It’s something we would like to do in the future, but for right now it’s simply too daunting of a task. Our grief is too fresh and too painful to take on something like that right now. So now what? I am back to the original question of how to acknowledge this day.
Should I ignore the day and just go to work and school like normal and hope it will be distracting? Should I take the day off and spend it hiding under the covers? Should I go spend the day with family and rely on each other for support? Should I visit his grave? Should we have some kind of organized service? Should our family go visit the family of his best friend, who was killed in the same car accident? Should this day be no different than any other day?
I think it comes down to this; whatever ends up being the final decision it will never be enough or give me any sense of comfort. He is still gone and the excruciating pain will still be there.
So how will you acknowledge your loved ones death-versary? How will you honor their memory? Have found yourself ignoring the day in the past but feel ready to honor their life now? The answer to the question of how to acknowledge this dreaded day only lies within each and every one of us, and it is my hope that we will all one day manage to feel some semblance of peace.
Krista Brenner is a Canadian girl who met an American boy in Costa Rica and fell in love. When that boy, Zach, died in a car accident, Krista began to write about her life and her loss. You can read more of her work on her blog.