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How Do You Cope with Grief and Loss on Your Wedding Day?

November 22, 2011

I will be getting married in 38 days time. This is undoubtedly an occasion I am excited about and one that seems to have taken forever to arrive, not least because I am turning 38 this December and my fiancé will hit the 50 mark in October and neither of us have been married before.

Since getting engaged, we have both been acutely aware of the fact that we will both be missing a parent on this special day. My mother died sixteen years ago when I was 21 from cancer and his father passed away five years ago, also from cancer.

So far, I’ve only had one of “those moments” of a sudden resurgence of grief. I hadn’t been feeling well and happened to be on my way to a dinner when I drove past a bridal store, when I suddenly burst into tears at the thought of how much I’d miss my mum on this day and how she wouldn’t be able to share in the preparations or the experience of seeing her only daughter walk down the aisle.

There it was again, for the millionth time, that searing pain of emptiness in my heart and the pain, the deep pain of loss. It made me wonder, will I lose it totally on the Big Day?

Will my carefully applied vintage-style make up end up smeared in a Kleenex before I even reach the altar?

Will I make it through the “I do’s” without sobbing?

Worse, will the photograph’s depict contorted ugly crying faced bride and groom, rather than a radiant, so happy to be wed couple?

My fiancé and I had already talked about how we could incorporate the memory of our parents and their presence into the service and agreed to have a unity candle lighting ceremony, whereby the two already lit candles would represent the spirits of my mum and his dad, something the minister would mention in her address.

We’d planned to have an image of our combined family trees featuring all of our relatives, dead and alive, to include both sets of our grandparents who have also crossed to the other side. We’d also chosen songs that were favorites of our parents or had a strong association: a friend of mine will be singing John Denver’s Annie’s Song, my mum’s nickname was Annie.

I’d  also been wondering how I could “borrow” something of hers for my outfit having already obtained something new, old and blue. But it is amazing how little I have left of hers after sixteen years: a hat, a cardigan, some bits of costume jewelry, cut-outs of the magazine and newspaper articles she wrote, photo’s and lots of memories.

 I do have a camisole. It’s the one she wore on the last day of her life. I remember helping to carry her to bed that night, it wasn’t that she weighed much then, she was 5’5 and probably no more than 100lbs, she was slipping in and out of consciousness in those last few days and eating maybe a mouthful of soup every 4 hours. When we got her to the bedroom, my stepfather helped me to undress her, but it was I who removed the silky camisole, asking her to lift her bony arms in the air so I could slip it over her head.

As I tucked her in that night, kissing her on the top of the head, I whispered “Goodnight darling.” As I walked down the stairs afterwards I thought how odd it was that the roles had reversed so entirely, it had only been a few years earlier that she would come in at night to kiss me on the top of the head and say “goodnight darling.”

I pondered; perhaps I could create something with the camisole? I figured I’d be borrowing it in a way. After some thought I decided to make a locket, with a picture of mom inside using a small strip of the camisole to make a ribbon with which I could tie it to the inside of my dress.

This idea of keeping our loved ones alive, of bringing their essence into our waking moments, especially the ones we find so hard, the Lonely Landmarks is what I refer to them as in my book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, is a healthy practice. Remembering is good, even when it brings about a few tears.

I know that I’ll have “one of those moments” on the Big Day, its inevitable. But I’ll have all my friends and family there, many who will be fully aware of the fact that it will be a sore point for me and my fiancé, and I’m sure my mom and his dad will make a guest appearance by way of the speeches. She’ll be with us in memory, in spirit and, as I’ve come to realize over the years, she’ll be there in me.

After all, we share the same DNA, and, according to my brother, the same eyes, and, as my cousin points out, the same shaped fingers. And I’ve always believed a wedding isn’t a good wedding without a few tears. And if all else fails I know she’ll be hiding under my skirt!

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