Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.
The day after tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the worst day of my life.
I used to love my birthday. More than a grown woman should. So, it’s a weird feeling to not be tangibly, annoyingly excited about it.
But the thing is: I can’t untangle the days.
I can’t change the calendar to make August 3rd come, say, in the middle of March, somewhere far away from August 4th.
I have many memories for the August 3rds of my life, yet only one for the August 4ths.
August 3rd. The day my friends chalked my driveway to say “Happy 18th!” The day he gave me a bracelet that said “I love you,” but was too afraid to say it. The day I celebrated with a very strange cake in Mombasa, Kenya. The day he bought my first legal shot — and I ended up puking in the bushes. (Okay, fine, that’s happened on more than one of them.) The day I grilled venison and bear for my besties in Alaska. The day I got mad because he missed my party.
August 4th. The day he died.
When I think of one, I think of the other.
They’re like stones to me now — seeing either makes my heart sink, fast and deep.
August 3rd, August 4th.
Celebrate on one, mourn on the other? Or just mourn on both?
What happened was tragic, excruciating, unfair. It’s insanely heartbreaking to think of all he will miss, and all he has left behind.
Bob’s life should be mourned. And it has been.
So many of us have lost sleep and laughter and joy and so many tears because he is gone.
So many of us have spent so many hours wishing things were different. Wishing he were still here.
But he isn’t coming back. He isn’t coming back. I say it twice so maybe I will really accept it. So maybe I will really believe it.
And so maybe, on August 3rd and August 4th, I can choose to celebrate life.
To keep living the life that, for one person, my person, was cut short.
To keep living life for that person, my person, whose life was cut short.
In one of my grief books, I read a sentence that’s become a mantra: “His life is over; yours is not.”
Whenever I feel guilty for enjoying life — like he did, and would, if he were still here — I tell myself that.
Because really, what other choice do we have? The best way to honor his memory is living the shit out of the life that was taken from him.
It’s celebrating life and love on these days; it’s celebrating everything Bob was every day.
Maybe the goal isn’t untangling — maybe, instead, it’s finding peace amidst the knots.
Yes, I’ll cry today and tomorrow and the day after that. But I’ll also smile. And laugh and dance and even drink a Bud Light.
I’ll close the door on my third decade, and I’ll know…
I’m not whole, but I am okay.
I’m not invincible, but I am strong.
I’m not sure where I’m going, but I am traveling on.
And will always be grateful for the journey.
Thank you to everyone who’s supported me over the toughest year of my life.
And that means everyone: from the friends and family who cried by my side to the family who’s taken me in as their own.
To the man who’s been inhumanly patient as I mourn the loss of another, to the colleagues who buoyed me with their daily brilliance, the readers who shared their own stories of grief, the strangers who pledged not to text and drive, and even to the random people on the street who smiled at me when they had no idea I really, really needed it.
I am not exaggerating when I say I would not have made it through the past 12 months without you.
Thank you for the hugs, the laughs, the “how are yous,” the notes, the love. You give me strength in the present and hope for the future, and I want each one of you to know what a difference you’ve made. I love you.
they say it gets easier, maybe that is not true but the pain often can be managed
I lost my 19 year old daughter last year (November 23rd). I still don’t believe I’ve totally come to grips with it yet. My only consolation is that she is now free of all the earthly torments that we endure. I celebrated her birthday in February and gave thanks for the years that we were blessed with. I’m not sure what I will do on November 23rd this year. But I know that I think of her every day and night.
I have dates like that – baby daughter’s funeral dec 19th older daughters bday 20th. Dec is tough – dad suicide dec 1st
This is beautifully written. How sad that the two days are connected like that. I’m sure it will continue to hit you in waves, but your grief quote says it all. You have to go on living.
I vote we start celebrating your half birthday too. Half birthdays for being carefree, real birthdays for remembering and celebrating together.
xoxo, you strong, strong lady
I love you sweetheart !!
You are a beautiful writer, gave me chills! Thanks for sharing.
Your love for Bob shines through. As Donne says, our best with thee must go, rest of their bones and souls delivery. I lost the love of my life at 19. The pain is always there, alongside his spirit. It was his spirit that led me to Peru. I choose to go on living. Like you state, what the fuck else can we do? Much love from my end of the universe to yours. And to his. Jai guru deva, om.
Susan, Once again your strength makes a huge shining example that life does go on. Bob would want the best for you and so do I, we will all find our way even when the spaces seem emptier and the silence gets louder. I hope your birthdays get happier and become special to you again and the next day will always be August 4th. I love you so much!
Susan, This is so beautifully written. Wish I could take some of that pain for you. You bring joy and smiles to so many of us… we are lucky to have you.
Love you, friend. And I’m with Lisa — half-birthdays are excellent options as well!
Shays you are such a strong person and so special to anyone who is lucky enough to know you. Sending my love today and always. xoxo
Thank you so much for sharing this, Susan! It was beautifully written and straight from the heart <3 Sending love and light your way.
I am so very sorry for your loss, and I hope that the pain eases and you are able to see a brighter future ahead of you. Xoxo
You are a terrific writer. I came to your website because I was so impressed with the quality of your writing and ythe grasp of issues demonstrated in the post you did for Pennyhoarder. That one read like an economic policy briefing except that the grammar was perfect and not self-serving. I went to your site and found about the loss you’ve experienced. I am profoundly touched when I consider the shock and then debilitating grief you must have endured
.My beloved wife of 25 years recently came within a few seconds of dying from an extreme reaction to prescription drugs used to manage surgical pain. The event unfolded in a fog of numbness and surreality . Long story short, after a trip to 2 emergency rooms and a helicopter flight, she survived, In spite of having to re-boot her brain, she came back to me and I still feel, after a month, like the luckiest man on this planet.
I almost felt shock and grief you’ve felt. You’ve bravely returned to doing one of the things you know, writing, and you’re working through your grief. Please keep it up. I won’t insult you by offering well-meant platitudes, but please know that I’m pulling for you. I’ll keep reading. Please keep writing.
Hi John, thank you SO much! Your words really made my day. I’m glad you enjoy my writing, as I enjoy doing it. It’s been an excellent way to help me cope. I’m delighted to hear your wife is okay; it sounds like a really scary experience. I wish you guys 25 more years of love and happiness. Thanks again for reaching out — comments like yours keep me going!