Those of us riding this roller coaster of grief come to realize over time that the first hill we must climb at ‘trigger’ times is the biggest. Because I now have three anniversaries consecutively which I have to deal with, I’ve come to understand that once I get past that first hill, I have survived another year even though I still have a ways to go before I pull into the station.
My son’s anniversary was 3/17, St. Patrick’s Day; my sister’s is 3/24; my Mom’s is on Easter. I find myself often being overwhelmed with all three at the onset, though I know there remains some other hills and curves I will yet have to ride out. However, the worst is now behind me.
Neither my eldest nor I travel anywhere for the few days leading up to St. Pat’s Day, nor on St. Pat’s Day itself anymore. Four years ago, my eldest son was driving to a store on St. Pat’s Day when suddenly an older gentleman who was driving in the opposite direction crossed over the center line and headed straight toward my son. He was able to swerve away quickly with only his side mirror being hit, but then this man crashed into the car behind him. When the police arrived at the scene of the accident, the officer that took my son’s statement was named Rodriguez.
Three years ago, on the eve of St. Pat’s Day, I had taken my daughter and her then fiance out for a very nice luncheon at a fine dining restaurant in the center of town to celebrate his birthday. As we parted and I entered onto the freeway to return home, I quickly maneuvered over to the passing lane of the four lane highway. There was heavy traffic with a number of trucks traveling at that time of day. Suddenly, I had a blowout. I had been driving for forty-seven years and my tires only had 23,000 miles on them, yet the tire had completely ripped away and within seconds I was driving on the rim. This was my first experience in all of those years of driving with a tire blowout. There was nowhere to pull over in the center so I had to cross over three lanes of traffic traveling at 70 MPH to have a place where I could pull off the road safely. I called my eldest who arrived on the scene to assist me within fifteen minutes. He put the spare tire on my vehicle and then accompanied me to a tire store to purchase a new tire. The man who waited on me was named Rodriguez.
Why is this significant? There are a few reasons. First, my son was killed on St. Patrick’s day. Secondly, he was killed in an auto accident. Thirdly, the young man that killed him was named Rodriguez.
I am not a superstitious person. I do believe, however, that:
“12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
As a result of these experiences two years in a row, both my son and myself felt it was wise to not venture out these past two years when approaching the anniversary of my son’s demise.
Last year was not significant. There was sorrow, pain, and tears shed but overall it was a fairly uneventful anniversary. This year, however, was very rough. The anticipation of anniversaries is always difficult. The countdown can begin as far as two months in advance. It usually starts off with some mild anxiety and just simple reminders that the day is approaching. By the time the anniversary is about one month away, the anxiety begins to increase and the ‘Grief Fog’ starts to float in. We find ourselves increasingly preoccupied and the ability to focus on tasks and remain attentive in a conversation gradually becomes more elusive. We may find ourselves asking someone with whom we are engaged with in a conversation to repeat what they just said because we momentarily drifted away. Often, we don’t know to where our minds drifted, nevertheless they did. Others around us may start to pick up on the fact that something is not quite ‘right’. We may begin to pull away from others at this time as a result. Memories are beginning to pop up, often unexpectedly. We may be functioning just fine on the surface, but internally not so much. Fear may begin to take hold of us as if something very bad is about to happen. It’s almost as if we are fearing that our child is going to die all over again and that we will once again be reliving that nightmare… and in many ways we do.
I have experienced different degrees of trauma throughout my life. Some of them were the result of abuse and rapes, others were due to physical injuries. I have also experienced the state of being in shock. None of those experiences, though quite overwhelming as they can be, compare with the trauma of losing my son. The degree of anguish and utter horror that grips our soul is simply indescribable. That deep wailing sound that many of us heard emitted from the depths of our soul we beforehand did not even know existed, is in a category all its own.
This anniversary was definitely harsh. I wailed not caring who could hear me or what they may have thought. I had two nightmares in a twelve hour period that terrified me, one had to do with driving a car and after someone cut in front of me, everything went totally black… yet I was still driving. I rarely ever have nightmares so to have two in such a brief period of time was very unnerving.
I do believe that we often will encounter spiritual battles. I have learned over time that when I am vulnerable and weakened at such times as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc., the battle intensifies. I will try to prepare for such in advance as much as possible by taking more ‘me’ time. I have to be more conscientious regarding getting more rest, lightening my duties and responsibilities, watching what I eat and drinking more water, and forcing myself to get some sort of physical exercise if only taking more walks. I need to pray more, read the Scriptures more, and simply take care of me more.
My thoughts drifted to the story of Daniel in chapter 10:
“1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar. The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had understanding of the vision. 2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. 3 I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
Daniel was mourning and he was given a vision.
“7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. 8 Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. 9 Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.”
All of Daniel’s strength was drained from him. All his companions distanced themselves from him. But then a marvelous thing happened, an Angel appeared.
“12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.””
Please take note of a couple of things. First, the Angel lets Daniel know that his prayers were heard the very first day he cried out to God for help. Secondly, because of the battles which were occurring in the Heavenly places ‘against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness‘, the Angel had been delayed three weeks.
So what is the message we can lay hold of in this passage? Simply, hold on… help is on the way.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at:
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