A woman once picked up a copy of my grief book, looked at the cover, and sniffed: “Why did she write that? She should have just picked herself up and carried on. It’s no good feeling sorry for yourself.”
A friend passed on this story. I wasn’t at all upset by the woman’s words. In a way she was right. Self-pity doesn’t get you anywhere. But while I smiled, I felt sad for the woman. I doubt that she understands grief. One day she will. For who can go through life without experiencing loss? Will she just pick herself up and carry on?
Self-pity? I wrote my book and I continue to write about Thomas. Is that because I feel a continual need to tell people about my loss? Do I feel sorry for myself? No.
I wrote my book as a way of expressing thanks to God for carrying me through the sorrow. I also wanted to reach out to others who might be in a similar situation. People need to talk about grief. The more people that talk, the more others understand, and the more compassionate we all become. That’s not self-pity. It’s sharing. And yes, I am still sharing my son after all these years.
In two days’ time it is Thomas’ birthday. It’s been 13 years since he was born and 13 years since he died. That’s a long time. I don’t need people to stop and offer their sympathy. I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. I was blessed. I have Thomas still. God gave me the strength to survive. I am thankful. And I wouldn’t go back and change anything. No, I am not looking for sympathy. I think of Thomas and I smile. At least I do for 51 weeks of the year.
Why is that other week of the year so different? I think about Thomas’ birthday and my throat seizes up as I try to gulp down the sorrow, my eyes prick with tears I don’t want to shed, and I can feel my heart. It aches. Why is this week so different to last week? Why is it so different to next week?
If I never looked at the calendar, would my body still know that November 9th is approaching?
All those emotions that are usually hidden away safely in that secret place within me, seem to be automatically released at this time of year. And I have no control over the way I feel.
Thomas will be 13 on Friday, but all grown up in Heaven. And for some reason just because it is this week of the year, I am sad.
I sit here and I wonder…
Why do anniversaries affect us some much? Why do the intervening years suddenly disappear, dropping us back in time, drowning us in sorrow… why do memories return so clearly?
And now I’m thinking: Why did I write this post? Will everyone think I am feeling sorry for myself? Will they think I am looking for sympathy? Would that woman say: It’s about time you picked yourself up and left your sorrow in the past. It’s time to move on and stop talking about your son.
But I write and I share.
A few days will pass. All those sorrowful emotions will seem to disappear, and life will be back to normal. No reason to drown in self-pity.
But today? Today I feel sad. It's that one week of the year.