Our Daughter Alexis arrived in August, 1996. Had she been born in a body that functioned properly, we may have had the chance to celebrate her 25th birthday in a few weeks. But she wasn’t, and we won’t. Her body gave out in 1997 when she was 13 months (and 5 days) old.

A few days ago I was experiencing what I have come to call the “pre-gaming” of grief: That slow onset of a pulling current, which feels heavy but also numbing. Each year as Alexis’ birthday begins to approach, I find that it hits me one of three stages: Before the date (pre-gaming), on the actual date (rare), or days to weeks after (a grief hangover). The symptoms are always physical, and you’d think I would recognize more them easily by now.

I have had a lot of practice with this and have tried multiple coping strategies to “get through” this time of year without it turning my world upside down. I plan rituals, quiet time, a day in bed and/or a spa visit. Or, I plan nothing and just go with it. Ultimately, it manifests differently each year it rolls around and I don’t have any real recommendations for “best practices” (the optimist in me can’t help but want to make things better for the future.)

What I do want to share today is that even now, 25 years after my precious Daughter was born, and 24 years after she died in my arms on a late Monday evening, I am still in disbelief. I called a close friend as I was out on a walk trying to name the daunting nausea and tiredness I couldn’t seem to shake.

Eventually, I said to my friend: “Did my Daughter really die?” Did that really happen? What the hell?” There it was. For a moment, I tried to apply rational thought to a fact I still cannot wrap my mind around. ”Yes” my friend gently replied, which to me still seems like saying: up is down, and down is up. Makes no sense.

If you have suffered loss, pre-gaming, grief hangovers or physical symptoms around the dates of certain traumatic events, you are not alone. As I have been addressing through the “Grief Series PSA” posts (use the search function to find the first 4) there are so many misconceptions about what grief is, and is not. Sometimes when I post, I want others to hear these (my – and not assuming for others) truths so that they may better support their loved ones who are in grief.

But today, I am specifically reaching out to anyone who IS in grief yourself, to comfort you with the knowing that if after 25 years I still feel the morose and daunting physical and emotional pain that became part of me when Alexis died, you are not “abnormal” if you still feel it too, for your loved one. I am not saying I don’t also feel gratitude, love and acceptance, but I am saying that all of these feelings are part of us now.

I have upgraded my general goal from not feeling, to feeling it all. Ambitious perhaps, but I attempt to integrate the flood of diametrically opposing emotions that can hijack my existence at any time. I have tried a lot of “options” to numb, and some of them even work, for a bit. But the levy always breaks.

I have found it less destructive to try and show up before that happens. When I try to white knuckle my way through it, I flail around first, and sometimes make big messes that then need cleaning. When I am done, I still end up in the same familiar place of remembering that I have to surrender. When I do, I eventually drift back into the flow of equanimity and find my center once again.

If some anniversary (life or death) of a loved one is approaching, do yourself a kindness and let it be what it is. No judgment. No self flogging or “should-ing” with regard to where you think you need to be “by now.”

And if you have the courage, try to travel without anesthesia. In many ways, these dates are no different than any other collection of 24 consecutive hours we have had to survive without the person who is no longer by our side, or in our arms.

Sincere wishes for Peace and Blessings on your journey along the healing path.

Click to access the login or register cheese