October 1, 2014
Today’s Writing 101 assignment is to write about finding something.
Denial. Anger. Bereavement. Depression. Acceptance. These are all stages of grief. For the first 26 years after the loss of my daughter, I experienced a constant barrage of emotions, along with four out of the five stages of grief. Never, not once, in 26 years, did I ever come close to acceptance. Today, however, I am happy to report that I have found it.
Jessica passed away on June 26, 1987. She was not quite three years old and I was not quite 23 years old. The havoc this event wreaked in my life is immeasurable. Denial, anger, bargaining, and depression have been the ebb and flow of my life, to some degree or another, for the past 25 years. Every event, every undertaking, every celebration in my life was filtered through my daughter’s passing. So much so, that I experienced nothing in my life in its pure form. It was as though I had an asterisk next to my name in the book of life. “* Mother of 5”, “* College Graduate”, “* English Teacher”. The asterisk at the bottom of the page always indicated the same caveat, “* Daughter passed away June 26, 1987”
In recent years, maybe the past 7 or so, I stopped looking for acceptance and resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to find the ever elusive, acceptance. I pared my grieving down to only one month a year, June. This is not something I did consciously. However, my other four children were relieved when I began to cut back on my fits of sobbing. It’s not that they begrudged me my grief, they were just frustrated at not being able to help me.
Twenty-six years of therapy, two mental breakdowns,one halfhearted suicide attempt and I still had not found that damned acceptance stage! Until recently.
Like any good epiphany, my epiphany came out of nowhere. It happened just a few months back. I realized how very self-centered and narcissistic I had been regarding Jessica’s passing. Several years ago, I found the strength to accept that Jessica’s death was not my fault. However, I could not accept the fact that Jessica’s death had nothing to do with me. Let me just say that one more time, “Jessica’s death had nothing to do with me.”
I have spent the better part of my life feeling sorry for myself. Well,not exactly, it was an extremely painful experience. However, my grieving had taken the focus off of Jessica years ago. Now, it was all about me and how my daughter’s death had really screwed with my head. Things were about to change.
Last year, through a series of unexpected events, I was flying home to Arizona from the Middle East. The date was June 26, 2013, and it was the 26th anniversary of Jessica’s death. It had always been sacrosanct for me to do nothing but grieve on June 26th. Yet, I had scheduled a 30 hour, two stop flight home. What was I thinking? I wasn’t, and that turned out to be the best thing for me.
I was 30 minutes or so from my final landing when I said to myself, “Well, this has sure been an uneventful June 26.” And just like that, it dawned on me that I had finally found what I had been looking for all these years, acceptance.