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Everywhere and Nowhere - Another Birthday Without You

grief grief support parent loss Apr 26, 2022
parent and child holding a flower together

By Ilana Shapiro Yahdav

This year feels a bit lighter. Perhaps because I'm so distracted by the fact that this will be my dad's first deathaversary (death anniversary) in a very very long time that I will not be with my mom. This will also be the first time that I will be away from my daughter for more than a few hours. These are two emotional firsts for me.

One of my college Golden Girls is getting married back East and the other three of us are leaving the husbands and kiddos home. It will be the first time us girls are together sans significant others in probably close to a decade.

As soon as I realized the date that the three of us had to travel, I asked them if they’d join me for pizza. They said of course and that they’d even have the Coca-Cola. Now that’s true friendship there. I feel very lucky. It may be small for them, but it's huge for me.

What is also striking to me is that they were both with me a few months before my dad died. My dad was super private and had a select few that he was okay with seeing him in the process of dying. A lot of my friends did not make the cut, but they both did. I’ll never forget that he was able to joke with both of them. Come to think of it, it’s one of my last memories of him making a joke.

Funny how such memories that can surface out of seemingly nowhere. A once forgotten happy memory that can bubble up at a random moment.  I was getting worried that I was running out of memories as the time passes, but I’m remembering, reliving, and making new memories.

I recently heard someone describe losing their person as, "being everywhere and nowhere.” (I apologize but I cannot remember who to credit this to - if it’s you, please let me know!) This description struck me hard. My dad is everywhere. My dad is nowhere

So let’s talk about pizza for a second. My father loved pizza and Italy. He loved pizza with ziti on it. He loved pizza with pretty much anything on it. He just loved pizza.

He also loved Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew. The Mountain Dew tradition dates back to some silliness that he got into with his college buddies. At every Bar/Bat-Mitzvah, there was always that required picture with a Mountain Dew. At my wedding, and both my brother’s weddings, we did our toasts over Mountain Dew. (We cheated sometimes and had DIET instead).

Coca-Cola. He loved it from a glass bottle - that was his favorite. He loved the Coca-Cola museum. He loved all things Coca-Cola.

So, on his deathiversary and his birthday, it became a family tradition to have Coca-Cola and/or Mountain Dew and Pizza (we don't specify the type of pizza as long as it's pizza in some form).

We’ve done this for the past 15 years, every year since he died, even if we were not together. On years that his deathiversary fell on Passover, we made pizza out of matzah (we have to improvise sometimes, but we do what we can). I know he'd still count it as pizza.

The Pizza and Coca-Cola serve as anchors on a hard day. It’s something we don’t have to think about. A way to feel connected to him and each other. A gateway to share memories about him in a non-forced way.

The only decisions we need to make are what type of pizza toppings, gluten-free crust or not, and if am I having a diet or regular soda. I never know what emotion the day will bring, how I will feel, and what I’ll be in the mood for. But, pizza will always be there.

Sometimes the grief ambushes come from all directions. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking on eggshells around myself out of fear of setting myself off. Sometimes the most random things will set me off. Sometimes I can barely talk (or listen) to stories about him and eating pizza is really hard. And sometimes, I’m calm and collected (that’s really only sometimes if I'm being really really honest here). But, pizza is always there.

This anchor helps get through the day. It helps provide some levity and lets us find a light way to talk about him, laugh, and share memories.

We always joke about how jealous he is that he doesn't get to eat pizza with us. But, he is with us - everywhere and nowhere.

What kind of anchors can you set up for any of your deathiveraries or emotionally charged dates??

We can never quite anticipate exactly how we may feel on a given day, but, we can certainly have a preplanned activity, or anchor, that we don't need to think about so that we can feel connected to our person. 

It does not need to be food-related at all. It can be literally ANYTHING that helps you feel connected to your person. Ideas: going to a shared favorite place, going for a run, journaling, baking a favorite dessert, or ordering takeout. If it feels good to you, then it's great. 

We'd love to hear what you do to commemorate anniversaries. (Note: if you choose to not acknowledge the day or not do anything, that's totally fine too! What is important is that you do what feels right FOR YOU.)


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