• Neva Bryan

Milestones and grief


My mom would have been 76 in September. It’ll be another of those times where I have to make a decision: Should I commemorate it, or should I observe it silently and go on about my day? Choices like this pop up several times a year, each time I reach a milestone.


Milestones are the markers of special events in our lives, such as birthdays and anniversaries. They can also include holidays, graduations, proms, weddings, births, and significant life accomplishments.


Grief can make milestones unexpectedly difficult, turning what should have been a joyous occasion into one of unbearable sadness or deep disappointment.


When Daniel and I were planning our wedding, I struggled with what kind of ceremony we should have. I didn’t want to deprive him of having his family there to support him during one of the most important events of his life. However, the thought of looking out at a sea of faces and not seeing the one most important to me made me sick. In the end, we decided on a private wedding, just the two of us, the pastor, and a videographer. We shared the video with family members.


Mother’s Day is intolerable.

The publication of my book Riverswept was bittersweet because Mom wasn’t there to celebrate it with me. She was my biggest writing cheerleader. When my first book was published, she accompanied me to readings and signings, and to all the festivals I attended to promote it.


Mother’s Day is intolerable. I avoid social media the week before and the week after so that I don’t have to see all the posts of friends who still have their mothers.


Her death anniversary is a dark day. There have been six of them so far. Each year I’ve had to choose how I handle it.


I’ve taken a day off from work and re-read letters from her. I’ve gone through photo albums and cried myself into a migraine. I’ve attended a conference where I was so busy I didn’t have time to think about it. I’ve slept through it.


You know what? None of those choices was wrong.


After the death of a loved one, you have a choice in how you react to a milestone. You can mark the day and do something special to acknowledge it. You can take note of it and move on with your routine. Do what feels right to you.

Do you have a special way to mark a milestone? What milestones do you find challenging?

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