I was thinking of the poem “The Death of The Flowers” by William Cullen Bryant as I was driving to my daughter’s house on November 22nd. This poem was one of several that stayed with me after college, implanted in my memory for various reasons.
I envisioned a field of dead flowers, a fresh fallen snow gently covering the crisp, dried-out leaves, necks hanging over their stems as though the flowers themselves felt the weight of sadness. Mourners gathered around a freshly dug grave, collars pulled up against the cold, dark clouds shielding the sun.
“And then I think of one who in her youthful beauty died,
The fair meek blossom that grew up and faded by my side.
In the cold moist earth we laid her, when the forests cast the leaf,
And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief:
Yet not unmeet it was that one, like that young friend of ours,
So gentle and so beautiful, should perish with the flowers.”
The poet wrote the poem for his sister who died, like Konnor, in the month of November.
I never in my nightmares envisioned myself or my family in that scene I had created in my mind. The poem left such an impact I would use the line, “And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief” to honor my grandson and have it tattooed on my arm.
As I drove to my daughter’s house I realized that I was driving at almost exactly the same time one year later on the day Konnor had died. Naturally my mind drifted to what I was doing, who I was calling, how I was feeling and everything about that horrible day one year ago. It was at this moment I realized I had underestimated how hard this one year mark was going to be. No matter how much I thought I had prepared myself, at that moment I felt like I was back in time. I was in my car and I was alone. Again.
The first year anniversary for those grieving the loss of a loved one may very well be an emotional relapse. For myself and my family it was an extremely emotional week. Notice I wrote week and not just the actual day. The day was difficult, but it was also the week. You are recalling not only the death itself but the wake and everything else that went with it.
My mind went over everything. My stomach hurt. I felt like I did one year ago. I fought hard to get to where I am today and I needed to take an emotional break to let go and grieve again because all the pain was fresh and new. Complicating this re-grief was recalling just how dark things had become for me. However, I came to discover perhaps if I accepted how much I have overcome, I can now keep moving forward.
I had a very difficult time accepting not just Konnor’s death but a lot of other issues I was struggling with surrounding his loss. I have found that those of us in grief are searching for first and foremost is empathy then faith, understanding and simple compassion. Without those basic human emotions the griever, already emotionally raw, without direction, despair sets in. Then emotional and mental breakdown. Emotional and mental instability are two dangerous companions. For me, the longer I suffered alone the more unstable I became. I was lucky enough to realize just how ill I had become when I had thoughts of suicide. Most people do not realize they are ill even at this point of irrational thinking. I knew I could not hurt myself. I would never remove myself from my children intentionally. I finally called my doctor and told her what was going on and I needed help.
I thought about all these things the anniversary week. How one year may seem like so long to some but yet just a small piece of time to others. How healing from grief is such a difficult process when the love is still so strong. I thought I was foolish in believing we were well on our way to healing. We had merely become extremely convincing when covering our emotional baggage with, “I’m doing well” and “I’m fine, Thank you.”
Picking up the pieces of your life after such a tragedy is more than just getting up each day and moving forward. It’s not that simple. A child’s death is emotionally debilitating, there is no way around this.
The hurt and the pain do not go away. We bury our pain deep inside ourselves. It’s easier for us to hide it than to show it. After a certain point it almost becomes tiresome to people to deal with our grief. Shouldn’t we be over it by now? Only on birthdays or what we now call “angelversarys” will we allow ourselves the release to grieve openly. Even then only to each other, those we trust.
The anniversary week is over and December has crept in. The radio stations have begun to play Christmas music..I just pray I can keep my promise to put my tree up this year. I can only try.
I hope I have a Spider-man ornament for Konnor…