A friend is hurting today. Well, to be honest, she’s been hurting every day for the last five months because today is one of those marker days. Not necessarily an anniversary or a milestone day, but a day you remember. You know the kind. It’s like the date that new couples celebrate as their three-month-a-versary. Or when parents identify their toddler as “21 months old.” When something significant happens we mark the date as a reference point in our minds and on the calendar.
Today isn’t a happy day for my friend. Five months ago, she lost her little girl in a senseless accident that ripped her world out from under her feet. She’s still finding her footing, but I imagine she’s a little less steady than she was before.
I can’t imagine the loss of a child. Just thinking about her loss makes my heart ache and my eyes tear up. Truth be told, I never met her daughter. My friend and I met through work and although I did meet her son, I moved away in 2012 before her daughter was born. We remained connected over the years and I watched her beautiful family grow through Facebook pictures. The ones she shared before the accident and the ones she shares now, after. Those must be the hardest of all.
When the “On This Day” appears on my Facebook timeline I often think of my friend. As I look back at what I was posting last year or the year before and I make a mental note of how much my own family has changed and grown, I think of her. I think of what it must be like for her to see these images of her daughter – smiling, happy, learning to crawl and then walk – and how incredibly painful it all must be to remember the happy times while carrying so much grief and sadness.
Today, she shared a picture on her timeline from this day last year. Of happier times. She wrote, “well, we survived five months without her…”
Her before pictures were so wonderfully ordinary. Just like what you or I would share. Snaps of a happy kiddo visiting her dad at work or playing with her big brother or making silly faces at Mommy. And then one day the world falls apart and these memories land on one side of the fault line that was the tragedy. And everything after is overshadowed with sadness, grief. As if the memory knows there’s something missing.
Soon after I saw her post, I saw a blog by Anna, a writer and blogger I follow online. We aren’t friends, but she is the friend of a dear friend of mine. She, too, lost her child unexpectedly on a random rainy day six years ago. Before her son’s death, she shared stories of love and family life on her blog. But after he died, her blog became the place where she bravely shared painful stories of loss and grief. Her post today talked about the befores and the afters and how it never really gets easier after such a searing loss. She offered a bit of hope that after doesn’t mean over.
I’m thinking of my friend today and every day. I wish things were different. I wish that her little girl was still here with her. I wish I could take away her grief. I wish I lived closer so I could give her a hug. But more than anything though, I wish her the peace of someday knowing that, as Anna says, “after is different. After is often hard. But after doesn’t mean over.”