Especially In October

An audible groan escapes my body as I turn the page on the calendar.

You’d never know it was Fall in Southern California based on the heat we have been experiencing. That coupled with the heavy emotion that accompanies October, it is has become my least favorite month of the year. 

The anniversary of my parents deaths always evokes powerful memories of the feelings and events surrounding the early morning hours of October 15, 2007 and the days that followed. I can recall in great detail where I was, what I was doing and even what I was wearing the night my sister called to tell me they had died. Although I have never worn them again, I still own those pajamas. I can’t seem to part with them.

I remember being grateful for all the tasks at hand so that I wouldn’t just sit and cry. There were many scheduled overseas phone calls, the repatriation of my parents bodies, obtaining toxicology reports and death certificates. Not only did I feel like I was in the middle of my worst nightmare, but the pages of a crime novel.

We had to locate their will to ensure their wishes were met, contact and meet with a funeral home, write two obituaries, read through countless condolence e-mails and field questions from family and friends. There was so much to do and I had never felt that level of exhaustion before.

I also remember waking up for days with tear stained cheeks and also not really being able to look anyone in the eye for fear of completely losing it. 

Seven years later, it is still hard to speak of my mom and dad in the past tense. There are things about them that have grown fuzzy and many I’ll never forget. Bittersweet memories have become part of my life, they are woven into the very marrow of my being and the sadness is permanent and irrevocable.

I’m grateful it is not the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning anymore. And yet, at least a dozen times a day it crosses my mind. More so in October.

I find ways of working them into conversations as I attempt to hold on to them and to help my son know them as I did. Of course, I realize that will be my lifelong struggle. And now that I’m a parent, I wonder if I ever really knew them myself. I always miss them.

Grief gets better, more manageable over time. I have learned to live with it as it comes and goes and I know the path toward healing and finding peace is a long one.

Especially in October.

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Loss Is Loss Is Loss: A Book Review Of Rare Bird

As soon as Anna Whiston-Donaldson’s book, Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love arrived in my mailbox I started reading it. I literally ripped it out of the manila envelope it arrived in as I walked up to my house and started with chapter one entitled, You’re Braver than You Think.

Something stopped me.

I knew full well what the book was about; Anna’s son Jack died in a flash flood while playing with neighborhood friends in the rain. It is a tragedy that is almost inconceivable to consider. Parents should never have to bury their children. Ever.

There was a part of me that wondered if maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to begin such a heavy story, one that was sure to cause me to draw parallels to my own grief and loss and pull me into a depression I didn’t have either the time or inclination to revisit. I wasn’t ready to go to that place in that moment.

grief feels like shame

That was the end of July.

By September, I had somehow successfully managed to avoid reading any reviews on Rare Bird or discussing the book with anyone who had already read it.

I picked it up again and finished two days later, on the third anniversary of Jack’s death. Ironic, right? I e-mailed Anna immediately to tell her how much I loved her memoir, how much I appreciated her tender words, full of wisdom and grace, beauty, love, pain and hope.

reluctant pupil of grief

I wanted her to know that I learned something about grief by reading Rare Bird. I realized that the thing about grief is once you’ve experienced that kind of loss it’s always with you and takes very little to conjure. It could be a quote, a piece of music, a passage in a book, walking by a stranger in the supermarket that smells like someone you lost or simply sharing your grief story with others. It can happen at any time and without any warning.

Through my personal grief journey I have discovered that grief is a tricky beast and everyone experiences it differently. So much of what Anna shares I felt when I lost my parents in a tragic, fluke accident way too soon. As Anna says, “loss is loss is loss”.

Rare Bird isn’t just a memoir. It is a beautifully written handbook for anyone who is grieving, who will grieve, or who will be there for someone who is grieving, but don’t just take my word for it, her book has already been praised by The Washington Post and Publishers Weekly.

Listen to Anna tell you about her book in her own words:

loss is loss is loss

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In A Nutshell

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 9.41.00 PM

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