November 13, 2023

The Death Anniversaries, Symbolism & the Meaning of Life.

October usually hits me with a storm of emotions.

This hasn’t always been the case.

It wasn’t until my father’s death, which was unexpected. The following year, my ex-husband died, ironically, the same way.

What followed was a life transformed and a large body of work focusing on grief, symbolism, and the meaning of life. I threw myself into the work riding the waves of grief, letting myself feel the emotions while trying to make sense of it all.

Just when I say I am done with grief and writing about it, another wave hits, and often, I am caught off guard. The truth is no one prepares you for death anniversaries and the flood of emotions, and time doesn’t seem to matter either.

After eight years, my mother still has my father’s voice on her answering machine, and when I call, I admit that I secretly hope that she won’t pick up so I can hear my father’s voice. Luckily, I am able to talk about this.

Lately, grief has invaded my dreams, and I am taking note. Grief can trickle from day into night, and our subconscious tries to process it all in our dreams. Our brains do this nightly, cleaning and clearing out and helping us shift and renew working though what we need to work through. The message that we are left with is in symbolism, which we can decode. These dreams seem to increase around death anniversaries; at least this has been my experience and the experience of those that I have talked to regarding grief work.

Early this week, I was talking with my adult daughter about the grief dreams, and she stopped me, asking, “Don’t you prepare yourself for this time of year?”

I gulped swallowing hard. “Prepare?” I ask.

“Yes, preparing for the hard time and giving yourself grace?” she said.

I thought long and hard about this one. I guess I really thought that each year there would be a death of the death anniversary struggle. Strange, it seemed to be getting worse not better with the increase of stress and life changes.

A small part of me doesn’t even want to get rid of the grief.

Does this sound familiar? Grief is inevitable and something we all will experience during our lifetime. What if we don’t need to get rid of grief? What if we were to embrace and accept that grief is with us lifelong?

I think we all can agree that it is important that we accept loss and move forward in life, finding meaning and bringing with us the love and memories of our loved ones into our present state. What if we did this while embracing grief and allowing it to have a place?

Many of us find meaning in the symbolism of grief and life. We look for butterflies and feathers and try to stitch together some meaning and message in the ordinary experiences of life. The ritual and ceremony of grief make up our culture, and all of us strive to find meaning in this glorious life here on our planet.

This fall, I am taking my adult daughter’s advice. I am getting ready to reset and pause while reflecting and remembering. I will spend extra time in self-care at home and with my mother over dinner and FaceTime with my daughter.

Our society often feels uncomfortable with grief even though we have “death cafes” and talk the talk. We often try to hurry grief and push people to move on, get on, and hurry through the emotions. We are uncomfortable because talking about grief forces us to face our own mortality.

I do believe that it is important that we face grief and live with it so that we can live fully and completely. This is the gift of presence, which we give ourselves and each other.

I encourage you to do what feels right during death anniversaries and let yourself feel what you need to feel. Go ahead and chase the butterflies, find the feathers and pennies, and make sense of synchronicities Stare at the stars, climb mountains, and come together in community. Say your loved one’s name and pause and remember lives once lived. This is your life after all, and your life has never been the same since loss, grief, and love.

We do not need to bury our grief. We can carry it, and the love will always remain.


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