Grieving with Intention

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1987 – 2015

Yawning this morning, I rolled over in bed. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. I’d woken up from a pretty good night’s sleep – at least a good night once I had cleaned up the vomit the dog left on our bedroom floor. Serves her right for stealing that slice of spicy pepperoni right off our snack plate.

Reaching for my phone, as I do most mornings, I was surprised to see that someone had already text me. I opened it up and saw it was from a dear friend. The text just said “Sending you lots of love” with a cute little heart emoji.

Huh, that’s nice, but slightly strange. We then had a conversation that went like this:

“Back at you!”

Two heart emojis in return

“What brought that on?”

“Just thinking about you”

I smiled, thinking about what great friends I had who would just randomly send love out. I was a blessed woman. Then I tapped on the Facebook app on my phone and I noticed my mother had tagged me on a post so I went to see what that was all about.

She had posted pictures of my son Adam and the post read “We remember with love, 1987-2015”

That is when I first realized that today was the anniversary of my son’s suicide.

I had forgotten.

That’s right, completely forgot.

To put this into perspective, the first anniversary, I started feeling more sad than usual at the beginning of July. It took me a while to realize it was because my whole being was dreading the anniversary date. The second, and third year, it got a bit better and it would be a hard week leading up to that day. Then, last year, I braced myself but my emotions were only out of control on the actual anniversary date.

But now I had completely forgotten?

I’m struggling with conflicted feelings. On one hand, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty; what mother would forget something like that? Did this mean I was starting to forget him? Did it mean I was a terrible mother? Other people remembered, what is wrong with me? Surely no one else ever forgot the day they lost a loved one?

But that was only for a couple of minutes. Then I decided to take control of what I was thinking. I was not a terrible mother, I simply forgot. Perhaps it was a sign of my healing that I no longer has such a visceral reaction to that date? I’ve been in counselling with a wonderful psychologist and even used EMDR to deal with some of the trauma. Not being devastated was a good sign, wasn’t it?

As I had a chat with my mother, I realized something very important. I want to approach my grieving with intention. I can choose what is important to me. And do you know what I decided? Adam’s birthday is coming up on September 3 and I am going to not only remember, but I’m going to celebrate that day.

I would rather celebrate his life than mourn his death

I don’t know if you are grieving, or if you are, where you are on your journey, I’m not saying you have to make the decision I made. But I encourage you to choose to celebrate your loved one in a way that feels right for you.

Carla Howatt is the mother of three adult children, a communications professional and an author. She wrote the book “Bearing Witness: One Mother’s Online Journey After Suicide

10 thoughts on “Grieving with Intention

  1. We lost our precious daughter Bobbie Jo,3 years ago. She was 28. I am really having a hard time. It seems by he greving is getting worse. It was due to medical malpractice. Do you have any advice?

    1. I am so very sorry for your loss. I don’t know your individual situation but I would suggest you go and talk to a psychologist or someone who is trained to deal with trauma. They will be able to give you professional help and advice. I personally had a lot of success with EMDR (ask if they are trained).

      Know that you are not alone and many of us are walking this journey with you.

  2. I read this yesterday morning, and I have been thinking about it ever since. You celebrate whatever you want. Death is a strange friend that visits each of us differently. You might share this post with your friends, or find a way to let them know how you are wanting to remember your son. I think they would like to help you however they can. Or maybe tell a few of your very trusted friends, so that they can share for you. Happy birthday in September to Adam.

  3. Michael was born July 19th, 1985 and died of suicide on July 15th, 2016. His death certificate was signed the same day as his birthday. It has been 4 years and I believe this has been my hardest year, but for some reason I turned the corner this year. Instead of mourning his death, I celebrated his 35th birthday. I took a special card and Big Big Balloons and put them near his resting place. I didn’t cry as much, I smiled. I smiled because instead of thinking about the Why and How Could this happen, I thought about him as a baby, a young boy and as a man and I smiled. He brought me so much happiness. So today, I am saying that I am happy that I was blessed with the 30 years I was given. I cannot bring Michael back but I will make sure he lives on. I put a post on Facebook and received over 100 comments and I responded to them all. Thank you for remembering him and for sharing his birthday with me. He was a unique person. He was a special little boy and man and people loved his kindness. I will be sad but then I will think of the joy he brought me and I will smile.

  4. Such profound words . I was in counseling and I know they used EMDR however since my sons trial is scheduled to start Sept 29, 2020 she said that I wasn’t ready for EMDR although I have nightmare of that horrible night when I rec’vd that call that every parent is afraid to get and not to mention the I spent in icu only to remove him from life support, she wanted to wait for the trial to begin. So my question is what exactly is EMDR ? And , how does it help ? Thank you lisa ( ( for story Nick Kauls forever 17)

  5. I really appreciate your honesty about “forgetting” the date. I’m still fresh into this unwanted experience, it’s been hardly 3 months, but I am very realistic about it, accepted it and I’m trying to have a life after my son’s death (there’s really no point in wasting another life although I’m very much looking forward to death). I occasionally feel guilty for doing so. I’m pressured by expectations that I should be screaming and falling apart, but I personally found out that it doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t relieve my pain and it won’t bring my son back. So, I’m trying to go on while the pain is still inside, the same as it was before but I choose to ignore it. It has become my new normal and it made me somehow numb but at least I am keeping it together now… This numbness makes me feel on occasions that I’m not reacting properly and that I’m kind of being “ok” with my son’s death and the guilt keeps up again… So knowing that others are also being somehow ok, at least on the surface, makes me fell less abnormal. I will always miss my son.

    1. First off, I’m so sorry for you loss – it truly is the “club” no one wants to belong to. Grieving is so individualized and we can sometimes feel as though we are doing it wrong. Take care of yourself and go in peace.

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