“anniversary reactions” & “shadow grief”

Last night I spent most of my time reading and taking in (most) every word of a chapter in ‘Empty Cradle, Broken Heart’. The section was called ‘Anniversary Reactions’. How perfectly fitting as we have now entered this week of anniversaries.

As I read, it helped bring clarity and peace to my mind with some of the things I’ve been struggling wondering. The book talked about having anniversary reactions and I really wanted to share a bit of what I’ve read.

You may find that you have particularly bad days at certain times of the year. These “anniversary reactions” are normal responses to the grief of anniversaries relevant to your baby’s life and death…anniversary dates are special and painful …

Anniversary reactions can be discouraging, especially as time goes on and you feel as though you’re putting your life back together. You may be surprised by the appearance of these emotions… some call this “shadow grief” – the dull background ache that stays with you; anniversaries simply bring that ache to the foreground.

When I read that about “shadow grief” it really resonated. One of the struggles, and I’m not sure how to even word this, is that I am aching everyday and yet there are specific dates that bring this ache our in me more than ever. I wondered if maybe something was wrong with me that on specific dates, it’s harder than others. A part of me know that it makes sense, totally. But then another part of me struggled with this as well. Was something wrong with me and my struggling?

As the dates of Eisley’s passing and her birthday come, pretty swiftly, upon us I found myself struggling more and more as this week drew nearer. I knew that the dates themselves would be really difficult and also bring up a lot of painful and precious memouries.

I think my biggest fear and struggle is wanting this week to be meaningful, to honour her memory and to help us in healing. I am worried and fearful that I will miss something or be unable to do something that I need to, for her and for us as a family.

All along I’ve wanted to still celebrate her birthday. I know that it could possibly sound weird, how could I celebrate her birthday when she wasn’t here with us? But something inside of me just really wants to, at least for this year and possibly in the years to come. I struggled at first, thinking that I was weird or messed up or maybe I was in denial still. But as I think about it more and more, it’s what I want and need. I want to celebrate her life and who she was and is to me and us as a family. I want to recognize her as a part of our family, even though she’s no longer with us. She’s a part of us forever.

And then last night, something so simple yet profound (for me) hit me; every day we are thankful for Chase and the dynamic he brings to this family and once a year we celebrate his life, his birthday. Even though every day, we’re thankful and recognize his life, we still do that once a year. It’s special and memorable and for him.

It’s different with our Eisley-girl because she’s not here and also in that, every day we ache and miss her whether it be like what they talk about with “shadow grief” or it be more intense. And it makes sense that, just as once a year we celebrate Chase’s birthday, that once a year the date of her passing will be more intense and difficult and also that I have a longing to celebrate her birthday as well. To me that date of her passing is very difficult, with a lot of painful memouries, shattering dreams, etc. The date of her birth I remember as peaceful. It is the day that I got to hold my baby girl in my arms, see her beauty and her features that resembled her daddy and me. To me, September 17th, though painful it was beautiful as well.

I want to celebrate her and I know this year, I need to.

I guess I just wanted to share a bit of where I’m at and also hope that this could maybe encourage and help a momma who has lost a baby as their anniversary dates come and with each year.

Side note: Reading ‘Emtpy Cradle, Broken Heart’ is helping me immensely and maybe it could help you too. I’ve read a few books that have helped my grieving and this is the only one that is written by someone with a Ph.D. I wasn’t sure I’d like it but I love it. They interview several momma who’ve lost a baby as different times or stages in pregnancy or after birth. Each momma has a different perspective and way that they are grieving. It has helped me immensely to not feel so alone or abnormal in what I’ve felt since we lost Eisley. If you haven’t heard of this book or read it, I seriously recommend it. It doesn’t reach you as a spiritual level, really at all, but it does help in other areas. 

7 thoughts on ““anniversary reactions” & “shadow grief”

  1. Katie says:

    I can totally understand wanting to celebrate your baby girl. We celebrate with you remembering her life and how she impacted us each in a very special way. We are so thankful for Eisley and we will never forget your special baby girl. Hugs.


  2. Danielle Duran says:

    I can totally understand you wanting to celebrate little Eisley! She had such an impact on your life and continues to impact the lives of others in a special way. I know it’s not the same as loosing a child but when the my moms birthday comes around I still do something special to remember her and celebrate her life even though she’s not with us anymore. Each year it’s something different but it’s always something that is special for me.
    You do what you have to, to make yourself smile and remember her in a very special way for you!! Love you girl.


  3. hannah j says:

    I didn’t get a chance to stop by and comment yesterday but I want you to know that this stranger was praying for you. I think of you a ton, my baby was born Dec. 10 last year, so we were due around the same time. I kept up through your pregnancy and loss even though I was bad at commenting, and have cried many tears for you while snuggling my own baby (and feeling slightly guilty that I was able to while you had empty arms). Cried tears of joy as you announced Boy S and as we’ve been able to watch him grow. . .cannot WAIT to see his sweet face =) Blessings on you and your family.


  4. jedwardswright says:

    What you are experiencing is a natural part of grieving. No one can tell you how to grieve, that is up to you and your family.
    Anniversaries are always tough, but it gets a little bit easier as the years go by. On Monday it is my late son’s birthday, and I will take time to remember him, although it has been over 7 years since he left us. The pain is not as sharp now as it was then, but there will always be a part of me that grieves, and that is only right, since he was so very precious to me.
    If celebrating Eisley’s birthday feels right to you, then it is right.


  5. Charmian Eichelberger says:

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s so nice to have you put a name to my feelings. I experience “shadow grief” all the time, everyday. Some days more than others but it’s still there. For me the ache comes to the surface most when I see little boys interacting with their moms. I too longed to celebrate Pearce’s life, so we have done that these past two years. As the years go by I want to continue to celebrate his birthday. He’s a part of this family and helped to shape us into the people/parents we are today and I feel if anything that is worth celebrating.

    Thank you again! My thoughts and prayers have been with you.



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