November

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November is quickly approaching. November is my least favorite month of the year. Mike died on November 27, 2016. I used to love Thanksgiving and preparing a meal or sharing with family and friends. I loved making the turkey and all of the trimmings. Mike loved thanksgiving dinner, especially mom’s Thanksgiving dinner. I wanted to skip doing the big turkey dinner that year. I wanted to go out somewhere instead. Mike begged me to cook. He was working 8-4 that day and was so looking forward to mom’s Thanksgiving dinner after work. He wanted a fresh turkey because “they taste better” He told me he’d pay for it. I agreed and spent all day cooking and making all of the thanksgiving favorites for the family. Never did I ever dream that it would be the last day I saw my son alive. And I never got the money he owed me for the dang turkey!

For the last 4 years I have spent November just trying to numb and “get through” the month. I would work, come home drink wine to forget and go to sleep. The cycle repeated for the whole month until I got to December 2. I wasn’t totally nonfunctional. Year 1 1 wrote a daily facebook post about Mike and his life so every one could know him better. Year 2 I did random acts of kindness all month in his memory. Year 3 I collected food and monetary donations and gave Thanksgiving dinner to 14 families. I put in mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce, gravy some other random treats and included a gift card to purchase their turkey and perishable items. Year 4 covid hit and I had nothing left by November. I did Sober October and when my friend suggested No drink November I said “no way, huh uh, not doing November without wine”. It felt like the longest month. I would scroll on social media and read everyone’s “30 days of thankfulness” posts and cry. I truly felt like I had nothing to be thankful for. One day as I was scrolling on Facebook an add popped up that was for a “wine free work week” and I signed up. It started on November 30. December 1 is Mike’s birthday. But I signed up thinking I’d at least listen and if I wanted a glass of wine when It was over I would have one or two. The first day the coach was asking why were there and what we hoped to accomplish. I typed in the Q & A “tomorrow would be my son’s 28th birthday, but he died and I am pretty sure I can’t do the day without alcohol.” She addressed me specifically and told me I was in the right place. Right then I made a plan on how too “get through” his birthday. I had a massage from my favorite masseuse. (that was already on the schedule). I took my younger son to Mission BBQ for ribs (Mike’s favorite), I went to a grocery store and paid for a birthday cake anonymously. I purchased a birthday card a gift card. I took them to the bakery and asked if anyone was picking up a birthday cake. I asked them to put the card with it and to tell them to open it before they paid for the cake. It turns out the cake went to an 11 year old boy who was stuck at home with a family who all had covid on his birthday. His grandparents did a porch drop off of birthday cake for him. I also sent legos for him and a fruit and bakery basket from a local shop for the rest of the family for Christmas . It was the first December 1 I spent sober in 5 years. I ended up joining the coaching program. I have grown so much since last year.

This November I am going in to it prepared with a plan for the month. A plan to do things in Mike’s memory to make the month better for myself and those around me who might be struggling. I have a goal of what I want to accomplish in the month and a plan on how to get it all done. I am spending 4 days of the month on a retreat with 10 women who I consider friends, but have yet to meet in person. They have been part of my life for the last year inside the coaching program I am doing. We have shared successes and celebrations, we have supported each other through losses, and job changes, and frustrations and we have been each other’s encouragers and help when we have times when we had a failure (or as I like to think of it an opportunity to learn). This year I still have some angst over November and every time I look at the calendar or see a facebook memory pop up I have to take a deep breath, allow myself to feel the feeling and I have to process the feeling. In the past I would have grabbed a wine bottle and numbed the feelings. But I have learned it is ok to have feelings and I have learned how to sit with those feelings and process them instead of trying to numb and ignore them.

There are always going to be those days that trigger us and send us spiraling downward. It’s the reality after your child has died. But there can be laughter, and love, and good times again. There is hope. For now you might not believe me, but one day you will find yourself smiling at a memory of your child and laughing as you hear his or her voice in your head telling you exactly what you need to hear at that moment. I wish you all a peaceful November.

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