Today it really hit me that Maddie’s birthday is this weekend. This will be the fourth birthday she’s missed. I’ve learned to keep myself very busy in the days leading up to the eleventh, but today was a particularly rough one physically, and it forced me to slow down. While I laid on the floor of my bathroom, the crushing sadness started to seep into my head and body.
I’ve written before about how I don’t really let myself play the “what would she be doing” game, but I did think about what I’d be doing right now. I’d be in full-blown party mode. I’d be preparing my house for an invasion of all her Junior-Kindergarten classmates. At five, she would have had lots of opinions about the theme of the party, what food she wanted, the games, and of course the biggest debate of all, cupcakes vs. regular cake.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Jackie’s parents, as they are preparing for Jackie’s first missed birthday. I hurt so much for them. Maddie’s first missed birthday was the hardest for us because we were still so new in our grief and we didn’t know what to expect. Her birthdays are still hard, but for different reasons. The grief is more familiar now, and it’s definitely more intense on these special days, to be sure. But I am mostly prepared for it, and I know how to cope.
The thing that’s the hardest on me is the not knowing what kind of person Maddie would have been. Her personality, her interests, her favorite things will always be a mystery to me. We have cream puffs every November 11th because that’s what we did on the only birthday we got to spend with her. But who knows if she would have still liked cream puffs? Or if we’d have even had them again on any other birthday?
So I have the tiniest, stupidest grief-induced jealously of Jackie’s parents, because they know exactly what kind of person Jackie was. We all know exactly how to celebrate her – a meal of favorite foods and good champagne, laughing and telling classic stories, and then if we could squeeze it in, dancing. I of course feel guilty for having that twinge of jealousy, but I can’t help it. Of course, on the flip side I am so thankful that we all know what Jackie would want. I even know that she would be hugging me and telling me not to worry as I admit this whole thing. And I certainly know that there will be others who’ve lost children younger than Maddie, who will be jealous that I got to know her for the time I did.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life with grief so far, it’s that grief is always changing. It can make you envious and angry and sometimes petty. I’ve realized that there’s no use fighting these emotions. For me, it’s better to feel them and work through them. When I try to suppress them, everything is messier and more difficult. So hopefully this latest bit will pass quickly so I can soon focus on celebrating my oldest girl and the anniversary of one of the best days of my life.