Thursday, January 05, 2006

Do you remember the day?

This really isn't your usual first-of-the-year post because it really doesn't have anything to do with the New Year. It's just a rant that I've been thinking about this past week, and when Leesa mentioned Laura and Jen's dad, I knew I had to bring it up. Do you remember the day or date your loved one died? Of course you do. If you don't remember the exact date, you at least can get close. I don't always remember the exact date my mother died (because her memorial service was 2 weeks later), but I remember it was the Thursday before Palm Sunday. (And we had to wait until after Easter to have a service since priests are a tad bit busy at that time of the year.) But my mother is not my child. I think I would remember the exact day, the exact date, the exact moment my child died. I have a friend who swears she does not.

Da Nile ain't just a river in Egypt. It's no secret that I have a very close friend whose daughter committed suicide 5 years ago last Thursday. Do I remember it because it's my wedding anniversary? Perhaps. But I don't think I will ever forget that this young healthy 19 year old took her life on a Friday morning after Christmas, after both her parents' birthdays that week, before New Year's. My daughter was very close to the young girl's brother and took him out on New Year's, and we have pictures of him looking pretty numb, but he had to get out of the house. So I sit around on pins and needles waiting for my friend to make the first move on that date in case she needs me or wants me. She is no where near healing like other parents might be after 5 years, no scholarship in her memory, no attendance at support groups, no mandatory therapy for the brother. Just denial. So when her husband's family, sisters, nieces etc, sent her a bouquet of flowers on the anniversary of the day her daughter died, my friend went ballistic. She was furious that they would be so cruel saying to me, "I don't sit around thinking that today is the day my daughter died." Well, IT SHOULD BE.

Here's where I need your opinion. I assured her that I didn't think they meant anything mean by the gesture. One of the problems is that side of the family has not always been nice to her so she thought they were being mean. I don't think so. I think they were thinking of her and letting her know that they were thinking of her daughter. How would you feel if someone sent you a note, an e-mail, a bouquet on the anniversary that a loved one died? Would you be offended? Am I weird because I remember dates? Obviously, Laura and Jen remembered in detail the day their father died. Am I insensitive to this because I've never had a child die? A very dear friend died a year ago in 2 weeks, and I plan to drop his sister and best friend a note. You read about my friend's son who died in November over in Germany. And I plan on making a note on my calendar, and on November the 3rd I will drop her note that says I'm thinking of her. Am I morbid because I remember?

Are we not supposed to remember the anniversary of a loved one's date? Am I not thinking clearly because this particular case involved a daughter and a suicide and not a father and a heart attack? I don't think my friend liked my answer since she often calls for validation. I wasn't choosing their side against hers. I just told her that I knew that the day was the anniversary of her daughter's death and that I thought the flowers were a kind gesture that said they wouldn't forget her. The call ended abruptly.

So do you remember death dates?


At 9:24 PM, Blogger Doug Bagley said...

Hey Red,
Personally, I think it depends on the person or persons. If you know them well enough to know they would appreciate the gesture then I'd do it. If you're not sure then maybe a phone call to see how they're doing on the anniversary date. You don't even have to say you're calling to give support and empathy. Just ask how they're doing and if they bring up the anniversary take it as a sign to speak about it.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Redhead Editor said...

And that's exactly what I did. I don't think her in-laws, no matter how long she has been married, know her as well as I do which is why I did not call until she called me. But to deny she was thinking about it is stuffing it so far down that she continues to deny everything about it. That's what is the saddest part.
Thanks for the input, DB.

At 10:31 PM, Blogger Janis said...

I found you through DH's blog and came over to take a peek.

Interesting post.

I remember the day my daughter died. January 27, 2003. She was 16. She went to school that morning and never came home again. She took her own life.

I'm always glad when someone remembers her birthday or the day she died. It makes me feel less alone in my grief. Makes me feel as if others remember her, love her, think of her.

I may not be healing as other parents either. I'm stuck in this pit of pain that seems bottomless and inescapable.

The dath of a child (or anyone) through suicide leaves thousands of unanswered questions. Guilt, self blame, blaming others. What did we miss? What did we do wrong? Why wasn't our love enough to save them?

Anger at everyone else is easy- even when they mean no harm. It becomes an outlet for the things we cannot speak, the feelings that run so deep, giving them words seems impossible. So we lash out at others. They become the target of our misplaced feelings of anger over the death of our loved one.

There is such a stigma attached to suicide. It isn't talked about as easily as if you lose someone to a "normal" illness. Yet suicide comes from an illness just as real as cancer. It's from mental illness. Be it depression, bipolar, what have you, the illness is just as lethal.

The hard thing is getting others to understand that. We fight our own acceptance of the death, we battle others misperceptions, every day is a battle.

There are those who cannot face the battle and retreat. They cannot speak of the loved one, cannot mention suicide, cannot face the reality their life has become after their loved one completed suicide.

Be there for your friend, let her know that it is okay to grieve, that there are no right or wrong ways, just her way.

If she'd like to talk to another mom who lost a daughter to suicide, pass my email on to her.
Sometimes talking to someone who is living the same nightmare helps. You learn that you aren't as crazy as your thoughts make you feel at times.

Remind her to be gentle with herself. We can be our own worst tormentors after our children die this way. "Good" moms don't have kids who kill themselves. At least that is what the darker thoughts tell us.

I apologize for this being so long. Not sure if any of it helps or not. But do give your friend a hug from me, another mom who shares her sorrow.

At 11:20 PM, Blogger Pam said...

Hi there, I don't have much to add. But I wanted you to know that while I don't remember the exact dates of a loved ones death, I remember the 2-3 week period because I associate it with something else.
Being angry with someone conveniently prevents you from having to deal with your own feelings.

I am so sad to hear of your friends loss and her pain. Unfortunately, there isn't alot you can do for them. They must find their own way thru this trial. I think you are doing the best anyone can do in a situation like that. Be caring and supportive. You can try the tough love approach if you are willing to pay the price, which is loosing your friend. Might be the most loving thing you could do for her though. Tell her what you think.

At 1:07 AM, Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Not morbid: thoughtful.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Billy said...

hey there, found you through DH's blog as well.

My cousin died two years ago August from an OD, some folks thought it was suicide but it wasn't. My aunt thinks the same as Janis, she wants to hear from people when his birthday or the anniversary of his death roll around, as Janis said it makes her feel less alone in her grief.

The first year we really didn't know how to deal with it but she had a memorial service on the anniversary date and it became common knowledge through that she wanted to hear from us about it and him.

She is thinking about him often obviously and when those days come she actually is somewhat offended if someone doesn't say or write something. It leads her to believe that maybe no-one else is thinking of him.

At 9:06 AM, Blogger greekchickie said...

I remember the day my mother died. It really depends on what to do. Some people want someone to acknowledge that love one's death. I am one. I blogged about it last year on the anniversary. I have received flowers... and it really helped. Others, who are not able to deal with it, shut down & would rather not talk about it. It's all a matter of preference.

The comments from Janis are so true. Suicide is an illness, just like cancer or a heart attack.


At 10:11 AM, Blogger Leesa said...

The year anniversary of my husbands son's death is coming up in March. We would see it as thoughtful if someone remembered, and/or sent flowers or a card.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Doug Bagley said...

You're welcome Red. Anytime.

At 7:57 AM, Blogger Laura said...

I agree with the other commenters..not morbid at all. It is a sweet way to let the person know you are there for them without being pushy. :)
Everyone is different in their grief, or as the case may be..denial of grief. It can be a very long process.

At 7:19 PM, Blogger Shephard said...

That's a toughie (remembering anniv. of people's deaths). But I think you're right. I think it's obvious when someone is being thoughtful, esp. since flowers are meant to cheer you.
I loved my sister dearly, we were the closest of our family, and she died a couple years ago. I don't actually know the date, but her absense is felt every day, and I keep photos of her etc. So, it could just be a personal thing about dates or not.
Very thought-provoking post.

At 9:54 PM, Blogger Redhead Editor said...

I was so sorry to read about your sisters' death. How very sad, S. Here is a website you might be interested in.


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