Death Anniversary

July 2, 2021

Four years. It’s been four years since I’ve seen my mother’s face. Four years since the hugs, the calls, the moments and the memory making. Four years since the last laugh and the final conversation. It’s been four years since she left this world. 

Four years of being an entirely different person with empty spaces and silent longing. Four years since the moment that her last breath escaped. 

It’s been four years of marking death anniversaries on the calendar. Four years of forced growth and unwanted change. Four years of heartbreak and four years of grief. 

This year, I’m working intentionally to change my perspective. I’m changing the angle at which I allow my heart and mind to drift and wonder. I’m choosing the successes of these four years instead of the trauma and the devastation of what this day signifies. 

I must remember that while she’s been gone four long years, I’ve also survived four long years. At the beginning I wasn’t sure I’d last four days or even four minutes, but here I am. This is not just the anniversary of the day she left but also the anniversary of the day I survived. 

Our loved ones death anniversary is also our survival anniversary. We did it. We keep doing it. We keep showing up. Stepping forward, growing, moving, and shifting into the new life that has found us. 

When we break down onto our knees on these death anniversaries in sorrow and longing, in pain and in heartbreak, we must not forget to stand up and rejoice for all recovery and resiliency we’ve carried.

We did it. We continue to do it. Whether it’s pretty or composed or colorful doesn’t matter. Whether it was messy or dark or brutal, you’ve survived grief’s attachment. We’ve proven to every single person watching that grief can be lived with while still living beautifully. 

You are an inspiration. You are a grief warrior. 

With a shattered heart and a broken path leading to the future, you keep stepping and breathing and loving with an invisible hole the world can’t see and often forgets. 

This may be the gut-wrenching day they left this earth but it’s also the very day you started carrying a strength you didn’t know you had, a loss you weren’t prepared for, and a life void of the person you never wanted to live without. That kind of pain resiliency deserves to be acknowledged. That kind of grief work deserves to be recognized. It’s the very hope that will light the way for others. Because sadly, there will be others. 

Today it’s been four years of life without her. Four years of constantly showing up with a broken heart and still finding pieces of joy and happiness. The best days are the ones with gentle reminders of the pieces of her that remain, in me, and in every delicate piece of the legacy she left behind.

While today marks four years of her death it also marks four years of my grief journey, the journey that created the grief warrior that stands before you today. While this day stings with trauma and devastation, and while it leaves me aching with an intensity larger than usual, it also showcases the survival of grief. 

Every death anniversary remind yourself, this is the day you became someone’s legacy. The day that created a survivor and a warrior, a grief warrior. 

You’re a grief warrior and you just survived another year. 

xox, Chels

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8 comments so far.

8 responses to “Death Anniversary”

  1. Margie says:

    Lost my Mom July 12,2020 to COVID-19.
    My life has changed. I feel alone. I break down & cry. She was the one who always checked in on me. She was the one I always shared my news with. I always had a place to go in hard times. How I miss talking to her,, visiting her,, just siting at the table.. I miss her ever day.

    • chelseaohlemiller says:

      Margie, you are not alone. Lifting you in fierce comfort, hope and love as you continue this grief journey. I pray you find encouragement on my page as you keep stepping into the new life you’ve been left with. xox, Chels

  2. Lori Ann says:

    My mother’s one year death anniversary was yesterday! My heart has been so heavy for a couple of weeks! I read all my text from the day everything started till back into 2019! Our text brought me comfort with her words, but also sadness and some laughs of our conversations! I would text her and say , “Momma are you okay?” She would reply, “yes, are you?” I just wanted to know she was okay before my coffee and my call to her ! I miss her and I miss my family! My mother, step father, dad, both my grandmothers and my dads girlfriend passed in 5 years and 8 months! So much loss but, I take life day by day!

    • chelseaohlemiller says:

      Lori Ann, thank you so much for reading my work and taking the time to comment. I am so sorry that we share this grief and heartbreak. Death anniversaries are so hard and full of sorrow. They are a day on the calendar marked by loss and one we typically wish we could avoid. I’ll be lifting you in fierce hope, love and comfort as you continue this week and remembering the sweet memories of your mother and the others you love. xx, Chels

  3. Daniela says:

    I just found your blog and everyword I have read is a reflection of everything I have been feeling, I also lost my mom on july 2017, she died the 4th of july, it has been 4 years full of ups and downs, of moments where I think I cann’t move on, and then relising she left me with enought strengh to continue… this year I became pregnant and more than ever she has been in my mind, wishing she was here to share this experience with her… thank you for your words for saying and sharing your grief because even when I don’t know you I feel conected to you… writing from Mexico

    • chelseaohlemiller says:

      Daniela, thank you so much for reading my work and taking the time to comment such sweet words. I hate that we share this heartbreak but I am so honored that you are here resonating with my work. Lifting you in comfort, hope and love and I pray you continue to find encouragement on my page. xox, Chels

  4. Susan Krick says:

    Oh, Chelsea. Thank you so much for your beautiful blog. I am an only child and daughter, born in the mid-50’s. My life growing up was awesome … 12 years of Catholic School and growing up with both sets of Grands.

    My Mom was a strict Mom … born in the early 30’s, she was rigid, distant and (i believe) envious of my amazing and sweet Dad his happy self and our relationship! In short, we clashed a lot once i grew to be successful, happy with others, independent and always trying to please anyone near me.

    Long story short, I lost my Amazing Dad in 1980 to Lymphoma. Mom was outwardly strong, inwardly lost. We created a MIL Suite where she lived for 5 years … and was rigid and curt. She was with us for 5 years and then lived in a nearby Nursing Home for 4 1/2 yrs until her passing on February 18, 2018.

    Although our relationship was shaky since my puberty, I spent her last two days seeing her most amazing smile (with eyes closed!), squeezing my hand to the enth degree, and singing to her. I treasure my picture of her squeezing my hand with every breath I take and regretting what a selfish, ungrateful daughter I had been.

    My heart is heavy still .,.. I talk to her every day and ask for forgiveness.

    Thank you for reaching out and helping me to cope and live for my unspeakable love for my Amazing, Wonderful Mom!

  5. Nicole Billmeier says:

    It will be 12yrs may 11th that my mom passed away. And every milestone that my mom would of been at hurts alot. The yrs go by but the missing i swear gets worse as u age. My mom died at age 43 of cancer. Last yr I had to deal with my own cancer and at age 34 and I’ve never needed my mom more then I do now.
    I’m glad to know others feel the same way. U just know how to put it into words. Thank you for expressing ur emotions and story. It truly amazing and helps alot.

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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