I don’t always celebrate my birthday. It’s not always a happy day for me. In fact, there are years that it is one of the toughest days I struggle through. It has nothing to do with me or the fact I’m getting older or anything else even remotely related to the typical reasons some people don’t celebrate their special day. It has to do with grief and the unpredictable process that it imbibes.
I lost a close friend in an avalanche the day before I turned 22. He was the first friend I thought I’d never be able to live without. He was the kind of friend who understood the not-so-easy to understand parts of a teenager struggling to grow up and young woman floundering to assimilate her adult identity. We shared something special and I was so fortunate to have that time with him. Losing him devastated me.
It’s been over twenty years and this is what I can tell you about grief — it never leaves you. It becomes a part of you and there is no going back to the person you once were. Everyone finds their own path through it and no two paths are the same. Time doesn’t heal this wound, but it does provide you the opportunity to figure out what ‘the new you’ needs in your life to survive it. It will get easier but there will also be blindsiding moments that knock you down and take the wind out of you as if you had just been told the gutwrenching news.
This was one of those years. I don’t believe logic and grief have anything to do with each other so I don’t waste time trying to figure out “the why” anymore. It just happens. I accept it, let myself be sad and detach for a little while. I nurture my soul, regroup my thoughts and come out on the other side a little bit older and a hell of a lot stronger.
I share this because it’s only when we stop talking about loved ones that they are truly gone. I share this because I have a handful of friends and family making their own way through loss and sometimes knowing someone else is fighting the same battle somehow helps. I share this because I was flaky and dismissive about well intended and thoughtful celebration plans this year and feel an explanation is due. I share this because it’s part of me. It’s gritty, it’s dark, it’s raw, it’s a struggle, but it’s me. There is a reason I seek out the light of a sunset, sunrise and stars. It is to help fill this dark spot.
Thank you for all of the happy birthday wishes and forgive me for maybe being a little more distant than usual. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and all the great things you bring into my life. Next year, we party like rock stars.