Thursday, April 5, 2012


Julie ~ Happy Birthday
The word anniversary takes on new meaning after the death of a loved one.  This coming Sunday, Easter Sunday, which falls on April 8th this year, will mark what would have been my Julie's 36th birthday.  

I have always associated her with spring, and with Easter.  Her first birthday cake was a bunny cake.  Her birthday has often fallen on, or near, Easter Day.  I realized quite some time ago that this year, her actual birthdate would fall on Easter.  

I do believe I started seeing Easter bunnies, furry Easter toys, and assorted chocolate eggs and bunnies on the shelves of the discount stores in early February.  Was Valentine's Day even over with?  An innocent walk down an aisle in WalMart caused me to let out a little cry to my husband while I said, "I have to get out of this aisle.  They already have Easter items on display."  I wondered how I would ever face Easter this year.

Two years ago, April of 2010, on that same aisle in WalMart,  my husband and I had giddily loaded up our shopping cart with enough candy to treat an entire kindergarten class or two.  We were getting ready to have Easter at our house, and we had to make sure we had enough candy.  That Easter Celebration held at our home to celebrate both Easter and Julie's birthday would be the last time I saw her alive. 

Keicha, Julie, & Amy
Easter 2010 

Needless to say, this week has been a very rough one for me and for my family.  I wasn't sure I would even decorate for Easter this year. Finally, just before we left on our Spring Break, I realized that I would feel better if I got out all those small little things that always were on display for Easter.  I needed to see those cute little bunnies after all.  

I needed to put out my collection of daffodils, my favorite flower, that has traditionally been a part of my home decor every Easter.  I needed to remember that to me the daffodil represents the resurrection.   I had daffodils carved into Julie's headstone.  I needed to celebrate the true meaning of Easter and keep hope alive in my heart.

Grief cannot be denied.  At times, it just must be expressed.  I have cried a great deal this week.  Crying is good.  It releases the sorrow that begins to weigh down the heart.  It is cleansing to cry. 

I am learning the great wisdom of these words:  Lean into the grief. You can't go around it, over it, or under it. You have to go through it to survive. It is important to face the full force of the pain. Be careful   not to get stuck at some phase. Keep working on your grief.  

These words come from a list of "Suggestions for helping yourself survive" found on the website entitled, The Fierce Goodbye, Living in the Shadow of Suicide. (click to read the entire list and find other resources.)

I have chosen to lean into my grief because I do not wish to become stuck in one phase of grief.  I am working on my grief by trying to express it in healthy ways.  I know the toll Julie's death has taken on me and on my family, but I also know that I am a survivor.  Julie would want me to remember her by living my life in the most healthy way I can.  

My plan is to celebrate Easter by going to church and remember the hope that I have because of my faith.  

I will remember my sweet baby girl's smile, the one she gave me the first time our eyes ever locked just after she was born 36 years ago.  I will remember the love she gave me and joy she brought me.  

After church, my husband and I plan on having Amy join us for brunch at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs.  

For me,  I hope anniversaries associated with Julie don't just remind me that we lost our sweet Jules, but instead, I hope to focus on remembering the beautiful life we as a family had with us for a treasured time.   Anniversaries mean that I hope we will remember to keep on living, and loving, and laughing,  and celebrating the lives of those who remain as we create new memories to treasure.