Two Years Gone: Lessons in Grief & Guilt

January 14, 2018, the day my best friend died.

This second year in grief marked a big change for me. The waves weren’t as violent and life wasn’t as hard. Life went on and so did I.

It goes without saying, she is on my mind and in my heart every minute. I still spend my days wondering what she would say to a funny thing Manning or Marjorie said. Or what she would say about my latest work adventure. She would certainly have a lot to say about this LSU football season, Joe Burrow and Coach O.

This second year has brought me peace. And in the same place I found peace, I found sadness for discovering peace in her absence. Grief is such a funny thing isn’t it?

Looking back on the first year without her, I was paralyzed and lost. I struggled to get up, work or even fold laundry. I put pictures of her everywhere and carried her with me in every pocket and purse, never wanting to fully acknowledge her absence.

Her grave was my first stop when I landed in Baton Rouge. My broken heart just wanting to sink into the ground with her.

Life moved so fast around me. How could people move on when my best friend was gone? How would I ever navigate my life without her?

And somehow I did and continue to do. One minute. One day. One foot in front of the other.

When I woke up on this day last year, I went to the beach to watch the sunrise. It was a cloudy, somber morning and yet, it was perfect. I found peace.

Throughout this year, my focus shifted from wanting to sink away with her to finding my footing knowing she was always with me.

When I returned home to Baton Rouge, I no longer sprinted to her graveside. And as this shift happen, the guilt appeared. But so did people in my life to remind me it was okay. My mom comforted me that she visited her plenty and it was okay. Last week, my lifelong best friend who lost her brother told me, “McCall, she isn’t there and that’s okay. She’s with YOU wherever you are.”

Hearing that from Lauren gave me such peace. Adam’s death was such a tragedy. He was a life gone too soon. If Lauren could free herself from graveside guilt, then so could I. Trust me, if I lived in Baton Rouge I would be there weekly as part of my routine. But my trips home are short and after countless hours alone at her grave, I now yearn to spend my precious time with my beloved friends and family, knowing she is with me.

GaGa isn’t alone in a grave. She is at the kitchen table telling mom how to cook. GaGa is sitting on the terrace smoking her cigarette, drinking Chardonnay, laughing at the kids running in the yard.

With time, the answers that I once longed for no longer keep me frozen in grief.

With recovery, Marjorie’s birth and cancer and GaGa’s passing, I struggled between pushing forward too quickly or with frozen with guilt to move on. What if progression meant forgetting. Would time erase the memories? The pain? But when I moved too quickly, the inevitable tidal wave of emotions would knock me over.

In these past 365 days, I have found myself more present in life as a mom, wife and friend. During the first year, I let down my best friend because I was drowning in my own grief. I could not be there for her when she needed me most.

My friendship failure was the catalyst for me to find a therapist. And by the grace of the Google gods, I landed on the couch of someone who gave me a safe space to grieve and permission to move on without guilt, as I found my footing in grief’s balancing act.

I am not marking today’s two year anniversary with a graveside visit or a beach sunrise. It’s Tuesday and I’m on a plane heading west to Los Angeles for an event.

I bought sunflowers yesterday and this morning I let the grief and tears flow on my airport drive, but had to smile through the tears. GaGa is no doubt grinning big today after that Lsu Win! National Champs! She was as big as a Tiger fan as you can get.

My heart is content as I smile through tears, knowing I’ve found peace in grief. Life moves on and so do I.

Last night as I kissed Marjorie goodnight, I asked her, “Marjorie Mims, who are you named after?”

“GaGa!” She squealed with a squinty grin.

I then went to tuck Manning in as he clutched his not one, two but five blankets made with love by GaGa.

I walked out thinking, yes. She is here. She is with me. She is with us.

Always has been. Always will be.

Hope you’re celebrating LSU’s big win today, GaGa. I’ll be raising my Chardonnay to you from California, finding peace that you are with me everywhere I go.

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  • Dawn Liphart
    January 14, 2020 at 11:57 am

    Way to pull the Tigers to Victory with your heavenly connection Gaga!