Acknowledging Our Grief Anniversaries

SadGirlBeach

I always struggle on sunny Saturday mornings.

It was a brilliantly blue-skyed September Saturday two and a half years ago, when I bounded down the stairs on the way to the gym and noticed my phone vibrating on the hallway table. The caller ID told me that it was my youngest brother Eric and so I rushed to it, eager to catch up. Had I known what he was going to tell me ten seconds later, I probably wouldn’t have answered it.

That was the moment I found out that my father was gone.

As only those who mourn the loss of someone they love deeply understand, sunny Saturday mornings have never been the same for me. They are now a Grief Anniversary; a perpetual, involuntary holiday where my heart marks its injury over and over and over again without me getting a say in the matter. Since that terrible day there has rarely been a Saturday morning regardless of what I’ve been in the middle of, when I have not found myself reliving it in some way, my mind jarred from its routine to momentarily eulogize my father once again.

I wish it was the only such occasion, as I could probably handle feeling this horrible once a week, but that’s not how this works.

Most people think that grieving is about the big annual events—about Christmases and birthdays and the like, and of course it is. But the brutal truth (one that only those who continue to live after someone dear to them is gone can rightly fathom), is that these other anniversaries are equally devastating and far more frequent. 

In the wake of losing a loved one, everything in your life becomes a potential surprise memorial. Out of nowhere you are broadsided by days of the week or times of day or numbers on the calendar, or songs that were playing or cologne you were wearing or the feel of the grass beneath your knees as you fell at the news. These seemingly incessant reminders force you once again to observe the loss anew.

And since these days and times and triggers aren’t obvious to most people in our lives (and since we don’t have the time or the words to describe them all), they are usually unaware of just how much and just how often we mourn. Even those who are closest to us and care for us greatly remain largely oblivious to our recurring sadness. Our grief can feel like a very lonely journey, which in many ways it is because it is specific to us and to the one we’ve lost. It is a customized but hidden wound.

I’ve tried to remember this because it helps me to realize that most people I encounter every day are doing this continual memorializing of someone they love too. They, like me have these constant pinpricks to the heart that they are experiencing at any given moment. They, like me could be internally reeling for what seems to be no apparent reason. This very ordinary day for me could be a day of extraordinary mourning for them.

When someone you love deeply dies, the calendar of your life is altered forever. It gets divided into the time before and after that moment. I’ll probably never have another uninterrupted sunny Saturday morning ever again. My mind will likely always find a way of marking the occasion and reminding me once more that normal is a very relative term now. In this way each moment is another chance to grieve my father, another potential opportunity to measure the depth of my love for him by the level of the loss in his absence.

Today, for a million reasons you might very well find yourself observing the absence of someone you miss dearly, and though it will be a rather uneventful day to the world around you, it will be a National Day of Mourning in the center of your own aching heart.

Please know that you are not alone, dear friend. I acknowledge the pain within you and I observe this day along with you.

Peace, on this Grief Anniversary.

Be encouraged.

 

 

136 thoughts on “Acknowledging Our Grief Anniversaries

  1. My mother’s birthday was yesterday. She transitioned three years ago. Something odd happened yesterday. After looking for over a year for employment, I was hired. I thanked my mother because I truly believed she was helping me.

    • I thought this was a very well written blog. Having lost my mother, son, and father in a 15 month period of time I can promise time does help heal that horrible pit in your stomach. However, there will ALWAYS be times that something out of the blue will trigger those tears. Thank God for those tears because they are reminders of the price we pay for loving the ones we lost!

      • I lost my husband of almost 40 years over 5 years ago, but there are still times when tears aren’t far away. Sunday we were singing ” The Church’s One Foundation ” as a recessional hymn, when the words in the final verse, “Yet she on earth hath union, With God the Three in One, And mystic sweet communion, With those whose rest is won” brought mist to my eyes. I never know what will bring them, but they are never that far away.

      • Having lost both of our Mothers and Fathers over the last few years, it was painful, but it also felt like it was a natural part of the aging process. There was the pain of grief and loss, but you could justify it with the fact that it was part of the normal process of life. Then out of no where, our son died. There was nothing natural or normal about losing a child. I cannot seem to come to the same terms over it. I feel like I should have gone before him (I would have gladly taken his place given the chance). And in our case, not an accident, just some random virus that went into his heart (myocarditis). Couple of days of flu symptoms, and he died in his sleep. No parent should outlive their child. There is nothing natural or normal about it – and you never really come to terms with it. The years can go on, and the world can turn around you, but you don’t ever feel right with the loss of one of your children (I am guessing losing grandchildren might be similar)….

        • I just lost my 19 year old 5 months ago.
          In the last 10 years I lost my Grandmother, Aunt, Father and Brother and they were heartbreaking but nothing like a son. You are right, life will never be the same. I did find a griefshare group that has helped me feel a little bit normal in my grief.

          • Yes a grandmother, mother, father, ex-husband and friends and five months ago my 25 year old son. A parent should never have to bury their child. I found Megan Devine’s Refuge in Grief. It’s saved my life. And posts like John’s are comforts along the way. I’m spiritual and not of a particular faith but John’s humanity radiates and soothes.

        • I agree 100% with you, My son took his life and life has never been the same. You don’t think your gonna bury a 17 year old and you try to live on, but it’s Damm hard. Big hugs to you as we walk this journey together

        • Nothing in your life is right again after the loss of a child. Sometimes a certain scent will waft through a room and it will stop me dead in my tracks because it smells just like him.

    • Grief, seems the story of my life. I feel like I felt it too young and it resides with me daily. Being surrendered to foster care ,living with them for about 5 years and then being given back to my mom. It equaled grief for me as a child my stability taken from me. The absence of love as it should exist for a child. So I felt it sharply as I sat in the car motionless and speechless to leave the people I had come to view as family.
      The hell I was brought to was and is torture in my mind. And yet I grew to love. My brother was killed in a car accident when I was 16. I sat next to his grave every day for about six months. Dreaming that if I could take him from his grave and hold him he would again live.
      At 18 I married a wonderful man who gave my life stability. The love in my heart grew and grew. I had 3 beautiful children. Then I gave birth to Sarah who had anencephalic. She died in my arms one hour and fifteen minutes after birth. Again I grieved this time as a family we grieved. And then four months later my husband died from complications of diabetes. At this point I can only say my life was a miracle every day as it seemed I was on self-destruc mode. Somehow enduring pain I tried to live again. I even remarried and had one son. 21 years after my second husband died. I am again in the depths of despair and pain. I wonder why I am here. But I have learned to survive so I once again take a chance. 3 and 1/2 yrs later I again choose to love again. We are happy and well. But all the pain from the past resides in me and I have so many anniversaries where I revisit the intense pain and longing for those I have loved. Because I was given away to a foster home I learned to value my family. My children are gems that have unmeasurable value to me. On a daily basis my good memories fight against the horrors of grief that are still quite alive in my mind. They attack me in a moments notice and leave me again scarred and torn apart inside. And yet I only know and feel it. I have learned to value each day and fight to make it special. And now when the pain and sadness revisit I do not slam the door. Rather I open it to my old friend and let it sit and talk to me. It speaks to the past and instead of running from or pushing it away I honor it. I value my memories and it seems to help. I would rathdr have my memories safe with me. These feelings and memories are what make me human. I now embrace all my feelings good or bad. And I pray every day that I don’t have to add anymore to my list. And I love the people in my life with all that I have.
      Thanks for sharing and making it easier for me to share.

      • You are a true survivor. I wish I could reach through the computer and give you a huge hug.

        This is a segment from Khalil Gibrans “joy and sorrow”… these words explain the depth of despair I felt losing my father to a tragic car accident many years ago- it’s because he was truly my delight.

        “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

        Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

        But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
        Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”

    • I had a dream that has given me such a feeling of peace. I was walking toward a large crowd of people. As I neared, I saw my mother, father, and I think all my relatives from the past and all friends who had died. They were welcoming me. i have no idea why my brain decided to give me what i considered a ‘message’, but it took away my apprehension about death. I never forget this dream.

  2. It was 16 years ago and I still have trouble settling down for sleep on Thursday nights. I dread the knock on the door that told me my son was gone. Thanks for acknowledging these anniversaries.

    • I understand how you feel. I lost my fabulous son 16 months ago. I miss him every minute of every day. Still cry all the time. Losing a child is almost too much pain.

    • My husband died on Thanksgiving day in 2009. So that holiday has been forever changed for our family. A ‘grief anniversary’ that surprised me is the night of June 3. He had suffered from congestive heart failure for over a year and was getting worse, but I was still able to care for him at home. On that particular night, he just couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep – both of us spent hours tossing and turning. When he fell out of bed at 3:00 a.m., I called 911. They took him to the hospital. Two days later, the doctor told me there was nothing more that could be done, and suggested a nursing home, and/or Hospice care. I chose the nursing home, thinking I would get Hospice when he stabilized. That didn’t happen, and he never came home again. I always think of June 3 as the beginning of the end.

      It always bothered me that he left home in an ambulance, against his will. When he died, I got a handful of soil from a flower bed near our house, put it in a little tin box, and had the funeral director put it in the coffin with him – under the blanket, where it wouldn’t show. Just a personal gift from me to him.

  3. My Dad died twenty-three years ago, and I thought I had done with the grieving when all of a sudden, at dinner at my Mom’s apartment some two years later, I excused myself from the table, went into the bedroom, looked at my Dad’s picture on Mom’s dresser and cried my eyes out.

    Grief is an odd thing. You think you have gotten “past it,” but that’s a lie we tell ourselves as a coping mechanism. What I have discovered in the years since my parents died (Mom followed Dad only four years later) is that with the passage of time the pain of grief morphed into a collection of fond and funny memories of my parents. The bad times seem to have been washed from my memory bank, or perhaps only the good times are what I choose to remember. Whatever, it never goes away, but it does get easier.

    I remember an episode of the TV show “Touched by an Angel” in which a wealthy young man, whose father has just died, asks his rather elderly butler if his parents are dead. The butler replies in the affirmative, and the young man asks, “yeah but you got over it, right?” to which the butler replies, “Oh no, sir, you never get over it. You simply get on with it.”

    And so it is.

    • This was so true. There was a line from a movie (I do not recall the title) that I watched many years ago something about a heart can be broken but keeps beating just the same. I still feel broken in my grief and yet life keeps going on. Thank you for sharing a piece of your grief journey.

  4. I read Motherless Daughters after my mom died. I learned that grief is circular, not linear. That I had to learn to live with it, not under it.

    Thank you for your words today.

    They are a balm.

    • I read Motherless Daughters 25 years ago in college, and it was a huge relief to me. I thought I was crazy that I was still mourning my mother, who had passed away when I was 7.

  5. Thanks for the encouragement. Such a helpful comfort to know one is not being ridiculous to still experience the sharpness and the pain of the loss. So many things every day serve as reminders, especially if one is living in the same house with the animals one shared as pets and all the little nick-knacks, pictures on the wall, etc, etc.

  6. I have lost so many now at the age of 70 I am beginning to lose count from the still birth of my grandson to the cot death of my granddaughter aged 11 months, to the suicide of her father, the loss of four siblings, my first husband and most recently my second husband. And many more in the middle. Grief is a circle of sorrow that brings tears and tender laughter. I felt better for reading this my friend and thankyou for making me feel less alone. As I get older I realise that every second of life is precious and every moment we share with loved ones is to be treasured, both for myself and my memories and the memories of those who will one day grieve for me. Now I try to make each meeting a happy one as I gather each golden moment and do not waste time with anger and bitterness.

    • So true and well said… I’ve buried my mom, dad, and husband along with so many other relatives and friends. Yet, I am blessed with children , grands, a new husband and still have many people I call friend or have added to my extended family. Cherish them, love them up, and thank God for the time you do have. God is good… All the time.

    • I lost my youngest daughter in March 2016. There are so many of these little “anniversaries” that no one else realizes, like my phone ringing for example. What keeps me going is knowing that my older three daughters will someday not only grieve their sister, but their parents. As you put it so well: “As I get older I realise that every second of life is precious and every moment we share with loved ones is to be treasured, both for myself and my memories and the memories of those who will one day grieve for me. Now I try to make each meeting a happy one as I gather each golden moment and do not waste time with anger and bitterness.” Some days it is so difficult to get up, to breathe, but I want my childrens’ memories of me to be amazing, and not just of how I stopped living when I lost Cyndimae. That will not be the end of this story.

      • I’m sorry for your loss I know you feel I lost my daughter 22 yrs ago from side she was three weeks old my life has not been the same I still cry I have a hard time my family has been there for me but they don’t understand it or can feel how I feel I’ve been in this alone I just take it one day at a time I don’t sleep I feel like I’m in a dream

  7. My mom died a year and a half ago. She and I became supports for each other when my dad died 34 years ago. I feel her loss so deeply that I often feel alone when surrounded by people. Thank you for so accurately describing the pain in losing the strongest chord in the fabric of my life. Thank you too, for reminding me that I am not alone in my sadness.

  8. This is so familiar to me. Last week, March 5, was what I call my mama’s Angel Day, the 5th anniversary of her passing. Next week will bring Daddy’s Angel Day marking his passing just 2 years ago. March 14 is their wedding anniversary – they would have been married 71 years if they’d lived. My heart grieves much thru March each year, and indeed year round as I navigate the stormy waters of my vacillation between feeling orphaned and donning their mantle of elder.

    I, being the aerie faerie creature that I am, take comfort in signs around me of the presence with me of those dear ones who’ve gone before me, especially in times of need. A light feathery touch, a feeling of strength and presence over my left shoulder, always assures me that my son Jacob is as near as my heartbeat. A monarch butterfly brings to my mind my beautiful granddaughter, who’s joyful dancing presence brings a smile to my heart. A red cardinal, and esp a blue jay (my maiden name is Jay), brings the strength and enduring love of Daddy. Ladybugs always fill my heart with joy – I feel my mama’s smile, her wisdom, fill my heart and mind, reminding me that all is well, no matter what. Yellow butterflies bring with them the fierce mother love of my husband’s mother. Peacocks, and my Episcopal priest husband’s crooked stole on Sundays, assure me of the abiding presence of my father-in-law, my soul mate when he walked among us as friend and family priest. Hallock, my husband, wears that stole now, crooked always as was his father’s.

    Last Sunday was a particularly hard day for me. I was assaulted by grief over my husband’s retirement from our church home of the last 23 years, our upcoming move, and leaving this faith community which has become family to me. As I sat back in my pew in church during the passing of the Peace, which is a time in our service for greeting one another in love, a friend greeted me dressed already in his golfing shorts, ready for his afternoon pastime. This man is known for his loud plaids and bright colors, but that day, the day I needed it most, his bright blue shorts were covered in red and black ladybugs. Mama was right there with me, her arms of love surrounding me, her encouraging whispers that all will be well sustaining me.

    Thank you John for your words. They comfort me. Know that you, too, are not alone.

    Blessed be!

  9. My beloved soulmate and I had 49 years of incredible, loving, joyful marriage before breast cancer took her last summer. I still have large pictures of her in the living room and talk to her daily. I constantly remind myself that deep grief is only possible following deep love, so I give thanks for the love, which helps assuage the grief.

  10. Thank You for Your words. I really needed this today. I’m also still in deep grief after loosing my mom two and half years ago. All what you said it’s so true. I couldn’t described it better. The grief is real roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes I feel numb, sometimes her death seems to be so unreal, and some days like today the reality feels more real. It’s like waking up from the dream and realizing again that it did happen. Yes, we never “Get Over” loosing loved one. We slowly learn how to live without them. How to live with this huge void and emptiness they left. Grief is a long process, life long, never ending… We always gonna miss the one we lost. Nothing never gonna be the same as before. Our life changed, we changed… I’m not sure if it gets better, easier with time. It gets different, bearable… No, time doesn’t heal all the wounds. Most days its still hard to carry on. Sometimes the pain is deep that I just want to stop feeling anything, I want to stop existing… The memories of the worst days when she was sick and slowly dying a bit each day for months are still so fresh and painful. The night and day when the cancer finally won are the worst hours in my life. Hugs and love to all my friends in grief.

  11. A part of every day is 29 June 2009, the day my beloved husband, my Montana Farmer Boy, died – I get through the days, but there’s always a hole on my heart, an awareness that a piece of me is missing. We were so different, but so much the same – we’d joke about our differences (he’d crack up when I’d call him The Old, Tired Decrepit White Man With No Butt), and that I was 6’2″ and he was only 5’9″ ; I was born in Philadelphia, PA, and he on a farm in Custer, Montana – but we were on the same page about life, philosophy, theology; we shared (unfortunately) a similar experience of being abused as children – yah, I’m crying as I write this, remembering – but I’m glad that I had the experience of loving someone so much….I wish peace and comfort upon all those missing loved ones

  12. In 2004, my Dad committed suicide. And my world changed forever. So many unanswered questions. So much sadness.

    In 2009, my Mom passed. I was her caretaker and her baby girl. Her loss devastated me.

    And in 2014, my brother, best friend, mentor – My Person – died after battling first leukemia and finally lung cancer.

    I have so many holes in my heart it is hard to find enough patches to keep everything from bleeding out. But I do. One day at a time.

    • I am so sorry to hear of all these losses, susanlsky – so many holes in your heart, so many loved ones gone, so many memories, questions… And, yes, one day at a time….about three months after my husband died, I was in my car, in a supermarket parking lot, and I just decided that I couldn’t go on anymore, that I just didn’t want to live without him. Now, this isn’t scientific, I can’t prove it – it’s like Jodie Foster’s character Dr. Ellie Arroway in ‘Contact’, when she met the entity from Vega…and had no proof to bring back…I believe the Lord permitted my husband to talk to me, to tell me how much he loved me, how sorry he was for everything I’d been through during his illness, that I was and always would be his queen, and he asked me to keep going – and I have…. because he asked me to. I haven’t had any such experience since… Peace be with and upon you.

      • Yes your Husband did talk to you. They’re here, around us, looking after us, and trying to let us know. So many times in my flower garden I see a white butterfly flittering around. My dear Mother loved flowers, and I know it’s her letting me know ,as I asked to her to, before she passed, that she’s near. I know in my heart that they are coming thru to us!

    • How so? I don’t understand how to keep everything from bleeding out.
      It’s been four days since the passing of my daddy. It seems as if I’m on a roller coaster ride I cannot get off of. It’s so hard. I miss him so. When my mom and I would have our riffs, Daddy would be the one to help me get perspective on the situation. He’d always say “it’s gonna be alright”

    • How so? I don’t understand how to keep everything from bleeding out.
      It’s been four days since the passing of my daddy. It seems as if I’m on a roller coaster ride I cannot get off of. It’s so hard. I miss him so. When my mom and I would have our riffs, Daddy would be the one to help me get perspective on the situation. He’d always say “it’s gonna be alright”

      • Your dad is still with you. He’s beside you, behind you, surrounding you with his love. He is telling you those same words as when you could see him. When someone that we love so much transitions, the loss that you feel is enormous. But it is a gift because it shows you how much you loved them. Your existence will not be the same but you will find your new normal. It happens with each transition, you find your new normal. I still watch my husband die most every night. The difference is that I promised him that I wouldn’t let his death stop me from giving my heart and soul to someone else. I am fulfilling that promise every day. I will be marrying again on October 9th. My husband likes my choice and sends me signs that he is beside me loving me just the same.
        I hope that you are able to work with the grief and find your peace.

  13. My grateful thanks to John, and everyone else that shared their grief. I know well the sorrows you tell as I am one of the survivors as well. True, it never goes away but, in time, the good memories surface and bring momentary smiles. There are three calendar dates for me. I think they could be considered measures of love.

  14. As so many have written here, thank you for sharing your words of regenerative hope and healing even amongst the wreckage that makes up our lives. With both parents gone and multiple beloved relatives, as well, the rapidly approaching Holiday is a minefield of trip lines. Thank you for sharing and acknowledging that with and for me.
    Yours,
    Cassidy Chesnut

  15. For me, grief anniversaries for loved ones was always easier than I thought they would be. The day would come, and I would simply reminisce, shed a few tears, and thank God for the time I had. My grief anniversaries began when I found out about my ex-wife’s 3 year (and continuing) affair with a mentor of mine. For that first year, the dates like when I found out or when she left, holidays or birthdays when she had the children would be torment for me. I am remarried now, and those dates don’t haunt me anymore. We do have to recognize their dates and grieve appropriately. As a hospice chaplain who deals with grief, I see this truth now more than ever. Thanks for addressing this important subject!

    • I have been through being a 24/7 mom to having my four children pulled by the ugliest divorce I could have imagined. I have my moments that I reflect and pull the photo album out cry and then be grateful for all the memories. I gently gathering the albums and put them away . Throw away once more my puffs plus pile and move on. I have and despite choices that were made and leaving me to move forward and that will be my young adults very strength to carry on one day.

  16. This was a very timely article for me….I awoke thinking of *him*. It was not the anniversary, nothing to mark today or even the month or any reason at all. Sometimes it comes out of the blue- just like the way the sky is today….

  17. When a loved one’s death is by suicide, the grieving is extremely cruel. Painful loss means we will grieve the loss. It is part of the love we felt for them. The tears do come in the heart and sometimes in the eyes. On my blog you will see it is dedicated to my sister who died 21 years ago. God has ministered to me and healed me of some of its pain, but the sorrow with its sadness will always remain. God bless you, John. Sorry for your loss of your beloved father.

  18. My favorite aunt died 2 years ago. Today wasn’t the anniversary, but I was home, in the shower, and suddenly I was overcome with so much sadness and grief over the fact that she was no longer here. When this happens, I let myself mourn and I know I feel better when I let the tears flow than when I try and stuff it down. I thank all of you for sharing your pain and loss. It helps to know we are not alone.

  19. My mother died at age 50 of breast cancer metastasis on Dec. 8, 1970, and there are still many times when I think of her and just cry. I have a very hard time around Christmas. I cannot tell you how many friends, relatives and even therapists have tried to tell me it is time to let go and stop having these anniversaries. Ridiculous. My body and brain and spirit know, no matter how I try to ignore them. John, thank you so very much for articulating what is real for us out here.

  20. How timely to read this post today, since as I was driving, I had an overwhelming desire to call my Mother. This is not the anniversary of her passing, but rather an ordinary day when I just wanted to call her. I spoke with her anyway, but it’s never quite the same.

    I do related to these death anniversaries…over the last five years I’ve lost my Dad, my gallbladder (it counts as a part of me), my dog Ben, my Mother, and my dog Rosie. I think of each of them every day, and remember them in a special way on the day they passed. Sometimes I will just start crying, but happily, the majority of the time, when any of them come to mind, I smile and remember what I loved about them.

  21. I was very blessed to have both of my parents still living as I reached my late fifties. Mother died first, following a long battle with COPD. She drifted off in her sleep on the opposite side of the bed from Dad. He died just short of five years later. His death came after a year or so of dementia….so he had pretty much died to me much earlier than his actual death. Again I was blessed, however, because he always knew me and knew my voice….even the day he died.

    A very personal encounter with God let me know that my parents and I were fine and would be all right. (I would never share the actual encounter on a site like this because of the nastiness and meanness of so many who post.) The presence of the Holy Comforter was very real.

    Being an only child makes things a bit more tricky…..especially with the “firsts” that follow a death. Memories were sustaining. I think of both parents pretty regularly. And, like John, it is often little things that trigger the memories. One of those blasted perfume/cologne samples falls out of a magazine and it was a fragrance Mother wore. I see Dad’s clock that he tried (unsuccessfully of course) to fix with WD40! I drive by the house where they lived for over 40 years and thoughts turn to events that took place there. I can still hear each of my folk’s voices in my head as clearly as if they were calling my name.

    As I have told some friends, the grief and pain tend to lessen but never go away. You just find some little safe niche in your heart to tuck them into and they remain a part of who you are.

    As we approach Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter, I am reminded that the events of those days some 2,000 years ago are the source of my salvation. That’s when I was/we were “saved.” The role of savior has been filled. Our/my role now is to witness to the grace and love that God has bestowed upon us so that the light that is in us may shine before others.

    May that peace which passes our understanding comfort you John.

    • Thank you so much for your kind, caring and wise words.. I had a very similar experience just moments after my mother suddenly died .while I was still holding her hand she was standing befor me with love in her eyes and no pain. I thank God from the bottom of my soul for that last visit for now, which was the most wonderful and comforting thing.

  22. This is resonating especially strong today. Just over a month ago, my mother and I picked out my wedding dress. It turned out to be the last thing on this earth she would do as early the next morning she fell and had to be rushed to the hospital – only to never return home. Now only 3 weeks later I’ve barely begun to even understand that she is gone and to know that she will not be there to watch me get married. Then this afternoon I got the call that the dress is somehow already in – 4 months earlier than expected. While I should be elated, I feel nothing but a pit in my stomach. I thought I had plenty of time to face the last memory of my mother than doesn’t involve tubes and machines. Instead, that memory is here now and it’s covered in lace and tears.

  23. Something a clinical psychologist taught me—one you might should look at closely being as how most intense grief normally ends about 2 years after the death of a close loved one:

    :If the feeling is that intense, it is not about the death of your dad. Instead, it is about something else that happened long ago when you were a child—and thoughts about the death of your dad triggers that bad experience from long ago.”

    I’d go get it checked out with a really good psychotherapist.

    • I respectfully disagree. There is no expiration date on grief, and even though there are norms, some losses, especially unexpected or sudden loss, can take much longer. We may think the intensity is easing, and then at the (seemingly) strangest times, we’ll be adrift in the pain as if we’re still at the graveside. Psychologists and therapists can certainly help us cope – I certainly have benefitted from them over many years and multiple losses. I just don’t belief there’s a set pattern or formula for grieving.

      • I was told when I was greifing to carry a kleenex box and I cry when I needed to. I did just that and people around at work concerned ask if I was okay I replied I didn’t want to talk about it. I had a counselor and it was okay to grieve he told me.

    • You are mean spirited & have NO clue. There is no timeline on grief, none & any psychologist to say such a thing should not be treating people. I doubt you will ever have this pain, you have no soul, no heart, so you & your psychologist can analyze your unworthy thoughts together. Shame on you!

      • This “two year thing” is not a new concept and I think it has been badly misinterpreted here. I’m one of the survivors of the worst years of the HIV/AIDS crisis. At one point I was averaging attending a funeral a week. I was also conducting funerals for those whose home churches refused to allow them to be “funeralized” where they had grown up, been “saved” and baptized and lived a significant part of their lives, but that is a different topic which should shame most faith communities. Perhaps a discussion for another day.

        For my personal prayer life I kept a list of the names of my friends who died so that I could regularly commend them to God. My doctor told me that was not healthy, but I told him I would not allow people who had been an important part of my life to be forgotten, even in death. I finally stopped keeping the list when the number of names topped 200. These were people with whom I expected to grow old. These were good friends….more than one generation of them.

        When there were no medications and essentially no hope, we had to learn all about death and dying. The concept of two years was that it took about that long for someone to process the death of someone close to them. That didn’t mean that the grief went away or that there should be some magic change in anyone or that there were no more tears. It was just a marker of how long a process usually took to reach some degree of closure.

        As I recall, much of this came from the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross school of thought about how we process death and dying, and it also included the five stages involved. It wasn’t a time for rationalized thought or a therapist’s ability to help anyone cope. Few were coping. It was much like a war zone. I’m guessing I’m still a few hundred years behind in coming to grips with what I experienced. As I noted before, much has been tucked away into special places in my heart where it is safe. I still grieve….particularly for my best and closest friend who died in 1987.

        It was ultimately my faith that kept me sane and kept me alive. God had work for me to do. God was both caring for me and giving me my responsibilities with regard to those among my friends who were still, at least for a time, still alive. That has not ended anymore than my grief has ended. Ironically, I’m now at the age when it is “normal” to lose friends and family. I looked upward one day and essentially prayed to God: “Seriously? Do I have to go through this again?” And of course the answer is yes I do because it is a normal part of living. That makes it no easier…it just makes it something that is.

        So let’s not be so harsh on what someone hopes is helpful in a timeline about our grief. It’s not a timeline out of thin air. It is based on a lot of study. It’s even more important to realize that the timeline doesn’t mean that grief ends. It usually just means that we are well along the way to working our way through the process.

      • Thanks Bruce. That is what I meant—the initial shock and then going through the famous stages of grief in a 1.5 to 2 year period. I must have mistakenly thought that everyone already knew about that. Sorry Sally.

        Man Bruce!!! If I had gone though all of that, it is unlikely that I would have come out of it without going PTSD. Hang in there buddy.

  24. I’m not sure how this article found me, but it’s timing is perfect. My best friend for 40+ years died March 7, 2016, just 4 days ago. The morning after her funeral I was driving my kids to school when I heard the last few notes of an 80s song that took me back to our high school days. Pinpricks to the heart, I believe you called them. I struggled to remember the title of the song and mumbled it to myself until the chorus came: “Don’t you forget about me”. I laughed through tears thinking of her. Bittersweet memories, and they’re just beginning. Thank you for a perfectly written understanding.

  25. I lost my best friend who was my husband on the 28th it’ll be 2 years we were married for18 wonderful years. Each every single day there is something that reminds me of him.people who tell me to get over his death which will never happen.

  26. Many holes in my heart also…the largest hole being the loss of my husband 11 years ago…on our 27th wedding anniversary…on a Friday morning…an accidental drowning…for years I felt like I was drowning also. Still miss him emmensily, and though I am functioning “better” I am not the same person I was.

    Prior to that I lost my favorite cousin…we were like sisters, my grandparents on both sides, my favorite uncle. Since then, my brother, then dad, most recently mom, and many friends, aunts and uncles, other cousins, a brother in law…each leaving another hole. Life goes on, but not the same…true joy is hard to find. My heart also breaks for others when they have a loss, but I am able to be a compassionate listener…maybe because of all the losses I have had.

  27. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been experiencing these moments a great deal over the past year as I’ve mourned the loss of a friend to suicide. It’s good to know I am not alone in the grief.

  28. Reading this makes me understand that I am not alone. It was two and a half years ago that I got that phone call. My son had passed. I have these anniversary’s all the time, some every day.

  29. Spelling! Spelling! SCIENCE is what you mean, and how do you know that God didn’t create that too, just for you to study? If all you want to do is rant against God, faki, I think you are on the wrong list.

  30. This. Thank you. 1.19.16. My sweet daddy. Morning. Same type of phone call. I replay my mother screaming to me over and over and over… It’s still very fresh, but I can imagine as time moves on that I will feel the same way each day. Nothing, nothing, will ever be the same. He is and will always be in everything I do, even the mundane. I could never, ever have prepared myself for this. The indescribable pain. The inability to process that I no longer have him; he is truly gone. The heart and mind play such horrid tricks. It’s out of my control. I can’t fix this. No matter how many times I think “oh, wait…maybe we can…”. But, we can’t. It’s done. There’s no going back. The world continues on.

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  32. Reblogged this on thelifeididntchoose and commented:
    An insightful and universally applicable post-everryone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about-walk gently in this life.

    “I’ve tried to remember this because it helps me to realize that most people I encounter every day are doing this continual memorializing of someone they love too. They, like me have these constant pinpricks to the heart that they are experiencing at any given moment. They, like me could be internally reeling for what seems to be no apparent reason. This very ordinary day for me could be a day of extraordinary mourning for them.”

  33. I stumbled upon these remarks this morning. I feel that this kind of accidental happening must be divine intervention. I lost my adult daughter to suicide on Aug. 13, 2015. Thank you to all who have shared.

  34. I feel this way for my mom and my dad and every one I have losted in to death, but some one I feel this way Is still here on this earth, they know longer seem to love me and I can’t stop loving them, in some ways this is worse because I continue to have hope of loves return and in every moment I mourn,,,,,,PLR

  35. I understand the studies that have concluded much of peoples’ severe grieving appears to be done within two years – but – sadly, that gives people who are not grieving a chance to jump in and tell you that “now, it’s been two years,and you HAVE to be over it.” NO, I don’t. And am I then ready to be analyzed or coaxed out of it? Not necessarily! Everyone is different. Each grief is different. I think while two years may be the top of the bell curve that does not mean that real, recognizable and understandable grief cannot go on much longer, or end much sooner. It is just not the so-called “norm”. For many of us, the pain and the remembrance are tied – but I would rather remember my mother through my tears, even after so many decades, than not remember or care at all.

  36. Speaking of grief—or maybe “good grief” would be better, I did a little numerical exercise yesterday to determine whether Donald Trump is the Annie-Christ. Yeah. You read that last bit right. You can check it out over on my blog and see how the numbers came out:

    https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

    I discovered that Donald Trump really is the Annie-Christ.

  37. My father died 14 years ago, on a a Thursday morning at 11:00 am, in room 11 of the ICU I had been sitting in for 2 weeks, on 11/1/2001, it was my 42nd birthday. Needless to say, my birthday is a bittersweet day every year. The number 11 has become some kind of connection for me . When I happen to catch 11:11 on the clock, I stop whatever I am doing and talk to him, say a prayer, feel the ache still. I don’t think it ever goes away, the remnants of loss, nor should it. 11:11 keeps my father alive for me. Thank you for this article.

  38. April 7th. The day I moved 1500 miles ftom my mom. April 7th, the day she died 13 years later. May 11th, thirty-four days after my mom died, Mother’s Day, my brother died delivering my Mothers Day flower’s to her grave. May 11th, 7 years later, Mother’s Day, I sat by my father’s bed and watched him die.

    Mother’s Day… now even as a mother and a Grandmother I find great difficulty in finding pleasure on that day. People always said “it’ll get better over time”. No, it’s never gotten better, but it has gotten different. And I can live with different.

    • Doing what feels right to you. I love to put baby lotion on to comfort my loss of my babies. It is my comfort to wrap up myself up in a soft cozy blanket for comfort as well.

  39. Hey John.
    You probably won’t see this and that’s okay. I just needed to share my moment with someone. This blog on grieving showed up on my newsfeed at just the time my Dad passed, Monday Dec. 14th at 4:10pm. My jaw dropped because today is the 3 month anniversary of that event. He was living with us and took a sudden and unexpected turn. My Mom was passing in the other room, as I was caring for them both full time. Mom had stopped eating 9 days before and we were spending as much time as we could with her and then Dad up and surprised us all by literally creating a game changer with his health. We were there with him as he silently drew his last breaths. My Mom was happily resting in the other room as her own body was shutting down more and more. It still feels unreal and raw all the same. Mom passed on the 16th of December, 36 hours after Dad. As much as everyone thought it was so wonderful they went close together, it didn’t change how it felt for me. My sorrow was complete. They were beautiful souls and I was blessed to have them and care for them in their final days but I never knew it would unfold like it did. I said I love you every single day and I was intentional in our life moments together. I miss them more than ever though. Yes, we all have days we call “anniversaries”. I just wanted you to know how much this entry hit home and how appropriate the timing was of me seeing it. Thank you for sharing your journey. You hit a home run to my heart on this entry.

  40. The actual anniversary of my husband’s death is approaching at the end of this month. He was half Jewish and I intend to observe that day (March 29 Gregorian, April 17 Jewish) by posting a poem. It is an observance called Yahrzeit (although that usually entails a prayer and not a poem) which is meant to remember those who have passed and the part they have played in our collective history. Remembrance is practiced 3 other times during the year, during important feasts (such as Passover). I think there is something cleansing and reaffirming in the quiet acknowledgement of the loss. Giving it voice, giving it a place in our lives, helps us deal with the little surprises that ambush us each day.

  41. 3 yrs ago my husband passed away suddenly very unexpectedly. I ended up giving the outfit I was wearing that day. It is comforting to know I am not the only one. It was a spring drizzly kind of day – days I used to enjoy – days I now find things to keep me busy so I don’t have to think. May God bring you comfort on your days when remembering may get painful.

  42. I just lost my daddy 4 months ago. This was very comforting to read and share with others. It’s nice to know that I am not alone in how I feel. Thank you.

  43. Today makes 7 years since two of my friends had a car accident. One suffered a TBI and the other was killed on impact. I came upon the wreck with some other friends and had to identify my friend that was killed. As everyday is hard, the 16th always make me relive that night even more!

  44. I lost my son a year ago in a tragic accident. I struggle with sunrises, dump trucks, French horns, director’s batons,the color of light blue, Jan 7, Jan 10, Nov 13, Mini Coopers, certain songs, and even certain chords.

  45. Pingback: Living the After | goinggoinggonyea.

  46. i lost my son tim in the Iraq war in 2003 then my lil brother in 2014 to cancer then on my birthday my dear friend Lonnie on the feb 26 of 2016 and one week later my dear friend debbi who is lonnies mother and I cant even see a bright day my way but what helps me is the lord jesus Christ and noing that I will see them again amen

  47. thank you for writing this. It is helpful to know I am not alone. I lost someone very close to me on March 11th so the date this was published online has special significance to my situation. Keep writing.

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  50. This. Thank you for this.
    My father died 2 weeks ago…we just celebrated his life with a memorial service 3 days ago. It’s a grief I’ve never known. So thankful for the assurance of where he is and that I’ll see him, in heaven, again.
    The last few months of his life I became more intentional with my time with him- spending every Thursday on a “date”. I’m now blogging my way through the experience and I’m finding that writing is helping me process.
    Thank you for your words-and I’m so sorry for your loss.

  51. My mom died 21 years ago from cancer. My father died 11 years ago from cancer. I miss him so much. Then in 2009 my husband died from an anurisom. A year later my brother died. On June 13th of this year I had to have my 12 year old Chihuahua Buddy put to sleep. I was right there and it was so peaceful for him. He was my constant companion. Although I do miss and love my family, I’m having a real hard time with loosing Buddy. He was there when I went through loosing my husband and brother. For the first time in my life I am alone. God bless all of us who have lost loved ones.

  52. I’ve had two great losses: my father’s death 9 years ago and my husband’s abandonment 15 months ago.
    Interestingly, I’ve found my father’s death easier to deal with – perhaps because I know he is with his Lord & Savior. But dealing with abandonment — I grieve nearly every day. The strangest things catch me off guard.

  53. I think there are other grief anniversaries than deaths….I would say that I will grieve on the anniversary of the day we first heard my significant other has cancer. That day will be both a celebration that he is still alive (which I hope is so) but also a grief anniversary for me as it was the end of the life we were just beginning and which we can never, even if he survives, get back. We will never again be able to make plans for the future without thinking, “unless the cancer comes back”, and because his cancer is advanced, we will most likely never be able to make plans without taking his current treatment and its side effects into play. We had only been together for 11 months when he got cancer, and I am grieving for the life together we never got.

  54. Finally someone understands those milestone grief moments. Hubby’s bday is 3 days before I lost both my parents, 3 days apart and then the day after that is our anniversary, so a week of celebration can sometimes be very depressing…And everyone that experiences loss knows that every year is different. Sometimes it is ok..and sometime it’s not.

  55. Just found this and I have tears streaming down my face. My dearest friend and confidant died just over 2 months ago. He lived next door and we saw each other daily. I am indeed finding that life is divided into the before and after. Thank you for your eloquent description of this individual, and yet universal, experience.

  56. Thank you John. Today is just over 2 months that my dad passed on 22 June 2016. The day before my birthday. I lost my mom 30 years ago. For me its Wednesdays at this time. I’m not married nor do I have any siblings so currently I feel asif everything is both long ago and yesterday.

    Reading you blog helps me realise that I’m not different and can work through it at my pace.

  57. I’m definitely a bit late on commenting on this entry, but it just hit home so hard for me. My mother passed away at the end of July and every day is a blessing and a curse for me. A song on the radio, an airplane in the sky (she loved airplanes, even if she was only hearing about them secondhand). The week after she passed a couple girls from work took me out to dinner and shopping to help me “get back to normal.” While riding in the backseat with one of the girls, she suddenly started singing “You Are My Sunshine.” I burst into tears. My mom sang that to me all the time from the time I was a child and even well after I’d moved out and started my own life.

    I’ll quit now before I start rambling even more, but thank you for this because it acknowledges the parts of grief that some people don’t discuss. Like you said, most people think it’s only the biggest holidays of the year where we feel it the most and that’s so far from the truth, Beautiful blog and I will be sure to keep reading.

  58. Thank you for this. My son, Jensen, was stillborn on Tuesday April 5, 2016 and Tuesdays are such a hard day for me. Sometimes I feel crazy for getting up every Tuesday and remembering the sun rising after he was born; it knocks me down. I will remember him and grieve for the rest of my life.

    I really resonated with:
    “Most people think that grieving is about the big annual events; about Christmases and birthdays and the like, and of course it is. But the brutal truth (one that only those who continue to live after someone dear to them is gone can rightly fathom), is that these other anniversaries are equally devastating and far more frequent.”

    To the non-bereaved, I’ve found, they only expect the ‘big’ days to be the ones that hit. Not all the other anniversaries that come, sometimes, a couple time a week. It is a brutal truth we live everyday, but it’s because we see the space we want our loved ones to be taking up at that time. The memories flood us and we wish we could have it back.

    Again, thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry for the loss of your father.

  59. Today is the one month anniversary of the death of my best friend. I found your beautiful article here quite by accident. Or perhaps not. In any case, it was exactly what my heart needed at the moment.

    Thank you.

  60. Thank you for sharing your experience, John. I lost my Mom & Dad within 3 1/2 years, back in 1990 & 2003, & I still think of them very often. But now instead of a stabbing pain at something that reminds me of them it’s usually a happy memory of something they said, when I hear someone say something similar, or the “feeling” I get when a bit of wisdom suddenly comes “from nowhere” that resolves a problem or situation I’m dealing with, something I normally wouldn’t have thought of myself. Things like that. That old stab when I smell Mom’s cologne, or when I see a train (especially an old steamer) still happens too, but much less often now, & usually not quite as sharp. I fully agree with those who’ve said you never really get over it, you just learn to get on with it. One thing I learned to do that might help others to cope, is that whenever I feel that stab of grief, I try to focus on a happy moment with that person, rather than on their death & my own grief. I look back to a time when we were having fun together, or when one of them said or did something really funny, which happened often with us as we always loved to laugh & have fun. I hope this suggestion can help someone else to lessen their pain. Hugs & Blessings, Gina

  61. Thanks for this, John. I lost my Mom – the most significant person in my life – on May 13. She lived with me for 20 years after my Dad died suddenly on Aug. 19, 1996.

    Mom and I had bought a new house, to help with her diminishing mobility, and, I think, because she knew I would struggle without her in the house we shared.

    The house is full of memories. They are all good, because she was my best friend, my confidant and the best person I have ever known. But they all hurt – the package of her gum that still sits on the kitchen counter, her robes and clothes that hang in her bedroom. We weren’t much for pictures, so I don’t have many but I treasure all of them.

    It’s been about 110 days, and I haven’t made it through one without collapsing in tears at least once. I miss her terribly, her dog misses her terribly and I don’t think life will ever be the same.

    I got here because I wanted to. My parents were defrauded of their life savings by a family member, and when I became an adult and saw they had nothing, I couldn’t let that be so I took care of them financially.

    But being alone today is rough. I am taking cancer treatment myself, per Mom’s wishes, and there are times when the aloneness closes in that I just wish I could be with Mom and Dad again.

    Your post, though, was a lift. It reminded me, if briefly, that I am not and I appreciate that.

  62. 4 Sept 2012, very early in the morning my phone rang, at the other end I hear – There has been an explosion and the female voice is crying. I knew immediately my son was in danger. I hung up and a message on my phone told me the hospital in Minot North Dakota had my son. He had burns 90% of his body 3rd & 4th degree.

    I flew to him, they had transferred him to the burn center in Minnesota. We spent 10 days there as he underwent surgery after surgery. We talked to the doctors and as they cried talking to me I knew in my heart my son would not survive.

    On the morning of 14 Sept 2016 I walked into my son’s room and his temp had gone back up, they had a cooling blanket over him I made the decision to put him on Comfort Care. That means more meds to help with the pain and remove the breathing tube. As a mother that was the hardest decision I have ever made but I made it for him. He didn’t deserve to suffer thru another moment of the pain he was going thru.

    September is a very hard month, the memories are overwhelming, the nightmares take over my life, my brain turns to mush making work hard to accomplish. My heart breaks for my other son because his brother passed away the day before his birthday. Every year my younger son has to endure this pain.

    Rest In Peace “Todd”

  63. I lost my 22 yr old son April 12, 2010. It was the most devastating thing to ever happen in my life. He was my buddy, my first son, and one of my best friends. He was the third child out of six. I grieved for every milestone my other kids went through because they didn’t have their brother. Every holiday, every anniversary, every Monday night at 9:09. I spent 3 years drinking myself to sleep every night, until my health started to suffer. I remained active in my other kids lives, that’s what kept me going. Last year my daughter finished school, got a job and moved out. That seemed hard to handle. It was a different kind of grief but still real. To me it has been a process of learning to live on, just differently. This past Feb 2016 my sister was diagnosed with Lung cancer and passed away April 30, 2016. It has really been a struggle. I spent so much time with her at Dr. appointments radiation, and chemo and I wasn’t ready for that. It happened so fast. I miss her so much. Sept 5, 2016 we lost our oldest daughter to an asthma attack. She passed away in her sleep. I don’t even think it has really processed in my head. It is too much to comprehend. I really dread the upcoming holidays and get togethers. Life will never be the same.

  64. Like so many here, I found this article on one of those hard days, one of those you never forget. We all read the words and think “yes..I get that exactly” – and we keep reading all the way through to the very last comment. It’s heartbreaking but beautiful. Reading everyone else’s comments just helps me to know that we aren’t alone in this very painful experience of reliving the hardest moments of our lives.

    Living the human experience seems so harsh sometimes, but it is amazing to remember that God’s own Son came willingly to experience it as well. And though he suffered greatly, he lived more than anyone ever has and changed the course of history. Who knows how we are changing history when we choose to love others deeply though we know there will be pain.

    Thank you all for sharing your stories and memories. Every year around this time I pick a special Scripture to focus on during this hard time. This time it is Isaiah 40:29. I find it helps to send short but meaningful messages to others I know who are sharing this date in memory with me. It just seems too painful to speak about out loud. There’s a very reverent and silent commemoration we have shared over the years.

    We will always have questions that may never be answered. That used to bother me, but the more I think on Jesus and what He went through for us, the more I lean on Him and try to humble myself before the Lord. He is all good.

    In memory of James.

  65. Great insight. It is important to acknowledge anniversaries and the feelings the go along with the anniversary. Grief is simply the experience of a loss. I can honestly say I have had the experience of losing my father, mother, nine year old cousin, aunt, great aunt, and grandfather. These people were very close to me. Each one of them played a major part in making me who I am. Every time I see the passing of a Toyota 4 runner, I can smell and hear my aunt. When I look into the eyes of my son, I see my mother’s smile. Just the other day I went into a Foot Locker and seen the Space Jam Jordan’s and thought of the countless times I was forced to watch the Space Jam Movie with my cousin. I did not realize how special each one of those moments truly were. Certain pictures, meals, smells and experiences drudge up their memory. Here is a A 7 Day Plan to Manage Loss and Grief http://wp.me/p6T3Vx-nb

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  67. Sunday, January 29, 2017 9:21AM is when I received the call from my older brother that our baby brother, Kyle, had died very unexpectedly in his sleep.

    Sundays have never been the same, and I don’t think they ever will be again. I relive that phone call over and over on Sundays and can still hear my brother’s sharp intake of breath before he delivered that awful blow to my heart.

  68. For me, it is Friday evening@ 5:25. I got the call that my mom was gone and my dad was just hanging on and died a few hrs later. 27 years later I still think about it, but it doesn’t hurt near as bad as it once did. Time stopped for a very long time, and the guilt of leaving them in the past was overwhelming. Now I am 3 yrs older than my mom was when she died. The love of family and great friends has seen me through the dark times. I thank God for grandbabies!

  69. We grieve so many things, deaths and departures of loved ones and friends. Those who have experienced grief know that grief will express itself: either consciously or subconsciously. Grief will reveal itself. In Jewish congregations, they have given grief much attention. We might do well consider the practice of jahrzeit. They acknowledge the loss of members on the anniversary of their death. Just a simple acknowledgement, just a moment to refocus.

  70. October 14, 2016 I entered this world of grief losing my beautiful, smart and talented 18 year old baby girl. My life will never be the same as it was before. This is so beautifully written and like you, I have found that my compassion and understanding of others has grown immeasurably. I’ve always known that we do not know what is going on in other people’s lives but I never really understood how much people can carry with them at all times. The crushing weight of my grief has made so many things so difficult yet has also provided me with a sharper sense of importance. I no longer sweat the small things but rather put my focus towards the good and wellbeing of others. I am slow to judge and quick to help.

    Thank you for putting it all so eloquently.

  71. Thank you for your blog post!
    I lost my eighteen year old son six years ago and can truly relate to everything you wrote about.
    I started a blog to help process my grief and my last blog took so much out of me emotionally, I have not posted anything since. Mother’s Day is coming and I feel the Holy Spirit calling me to write, I pray I can minister to others as well as you have. Thanks again.

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