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Carol's Columns

Honoring the One Year Anniversary of My Daughter's Death

I thought that I would share an excerpt from my book Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare about the one year anniversary of my daughter Kristen's death. Kristen died in November and for all of us, the day our child was taken from us is a day we'll never forget. There is never an easy way to acknowledge that day. I felt it was important on the one year anniversary to return to the ocean and the spot where Kristen was pulled out to sea. The following is from a letter I wrote to my son who was 10 at the time. We had climbed down some rocks that projected just above the beach at the same time of the day that she drowned. Our plan was to have a quiet, meditative moment where we would each reflect on Krissie in our own way.

We huddled on a big rock and watched the waves churn below us. I asked if you were afraid that you might drown too, or were you mostly thinking about Krissie? You told me that you were just sad. Holding you, I told you I was sad too but knew we would be okay. Michel, I really meant it. There was a time when I wanted so much to tell you that but had my doubts. I no longer had any.

The rhythm of the waves as they moved in and out below us felt analogous to the waves of grief I had experienced since Kristen's death. That past year had been a long and tedious growing process. At times, the waves of grief pounded with a force that threatened to pull me under forever. At other times, I was free.
Sitting on that rock, I was aware of these internal waves, but they didn't engulf me. I was as distanced from the grief as I was from the waves surging below. It was symbolic of all we had been through in the year prior. Kristen was gone forever and nothing would bring her back. But now, rather than drowning with her as I once thought I might, I felt encouraged. We would have days of sadness ahead – many more. But we were making it. We were both survivors.

The waves swirled around the rocks and scavenged for anything on the beach. I thought of many things as I watched them. I thought of the seashells I had collected over the years from my walks along beaches. Tiny fragile shells I found completely intact, lying in the sand, survivors of the breakers. Yet Kristen had not survived.

At one time I had watched similar waves, thinking about how they washed and cleansed our beaches, keeping the coast beautiful. From time to time, they would even deposit deep sea treasures for those lucky enough to find them. It would take me a long time before I saw waves in this way again.

We sat, able to be still with our thoughts and feelings. I began to feel a strength come back and could sense this happening for you as well. We had needed to return for that moment alone. We were reclaiming ourselves. That was the last time I went to Bandon. I never want to go again.