March 10, 2016 is the day my amazing, beautiful little girl left this world. This is listed as her "date of death" on official paperwork. This is a day that forever changed me. A day I will never forget.
We were huge on birthdays and still celebrate her birthday to honor her each year. I imagine we will always do something on her birthday. The day she left us is not one we want to celebrate, but at the same time we can’t ignore it. We watch the calendar as the days draw closer to March and we feel the anxiety rise as each day passes.
We very purposefully do not plan anything on that day. We know that we will not be fully functional. Until we wake up that morning, we don’t know exactly what we will be able to do or not do.
We think of Casey every second of every day. We try hard to focus on her life and all the amazing memories we have. We do everything we can to focus on the good stuff and not dwell on the illnesses, the surgeries, the bad days, or that final breath. On March 10, we are almost forced to relive the pain and the heartbreak we felt as we said goodbye.
Some people prefer to be surrounded by family and friends and to busy themselves so they don’t have time to feel down. Some people use this day as a day to let themselves be sad and angry. Allow them a day to just feel awful. Because sometimes that’s needed.
Some people want to be alone with their thoughts and feelings. Some people may use this day to give back. To do something positive to balance out the grief. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is no manual that will tell you what you should or should not do on this date.
My husband and I unplug. We know our family and friends are there for us. They hurt and miss Casey, too. But we can’t handle the additional pity faces or awkward things people say when they just don’t know what to say. We avoid the phone and we avoid social media. We just shut down and hide away. We let ourselves feel bad for the day. We try to get the bad memories processed so the rest of the year we can refocus on the good stuff.
Some people may say that each year it gets a little easier. This is referring to general days. The anniversary doesn’t get better. It gets harder. On the anniversary, you are forced to realize that it has been another year since the last time you held your baby, kissed their perfectly chubby cheeks, smelled their sweet smell, or looked into their eyes and felt your heart fill with love.
Regardless of what you do on this anniversary, you can get through it. The build-up to the date is as bad, if not worse, than the actual day itself. Do what feel right to you.
And know that it is just a day and will be over soon. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.