Why I Do Not Visit

I used to go to my mom and sister’s grave-site somewhat frequently.  As a teenager if I was walking home from school I’d go out of my way to stop by and just sit.  I remember spending time sitting on the grass and slowly watching the weeks pass as the brown dirt return to green grass as time passed.  I even remember stopping by with friends.  I remember going before the headstone was placed.

I remember seeing the headstone the first time – one of my mom’s favorite mountain locations and a picture of each of them.  The years they lived and died.  The simple words forever in our hearts are forever etched in my mind.

I always stopped by on significant dates, like mother’s day and birthdays and the anniversary of the car collision that claimed their lives. I’d stop to take a moment and reflect on what was and what is and how much my life had been turned upside in a flash.

Sometimes there would be a note or flowers from someone else sitting there.  Once I even saw a candle that had burned out.  I suspect they were from one of my sister’s friends or one of my mom’s colleagues or one of our family friends.  It always brought a smile to my face to know they were missed by others, because it reminded me of the positive impact they left on the world.

There were times when I cried.  Cried for their deaths and cried for my own loss.  There were times when I talked, as if somehow they could hear me.  There were times when I stood and said nothing at all, as I simply had no words.

I remember always being grateful that they were together.  Somehow, it’s wrong that a mother and daughter should share a headstone, but it always brought me comfort to know that they were together.  I struggle with the concept of an after-life and what the means to me, but yet somehow seeing them together for eternity on that stone brought me comfort.  Their togetherness on that stone was a visual representation that they didn’t die alone and wherever or whatever they are now they are not alone, they will always have each other.

But, then I I moved away.  And my visits started to become less frequent.

First my Dad moved me to live in my step-mom’s house.  The move meant there was more distance, and it became harder to visit the grave on a whim.

Then, I moved much further away to attend university, and even further away to attend a second university.

At first, I’d stop by whenever I went home.  I’d make a point to buy flowers or a Christmas wreath or something nice to leave as a marker of my love and my longing to have just one ore moment with them. I would always stop by and clean up the area – sweeping snow off the headstone or removing dead flowers.

I remember the first time I took Mr. MPB.  The first time he saw that part of my life.  I remember thinking how weird it is that this is how my boyfriend will meet my family – and yet, he stood their with me.  Albeit, it was slightly awkward, but he did it and he held my hand and comforted me.

I also remember the first time I was back home and didn’t stop by.  I remember the transition from frequent visits to infrequent visits.

I started buying fake flowers so they’d last longer and it would like look someone was coming by often.

Slowly, I stopped stopping by.

I used the excuse that we didn’t have enough time to stop and buy flowers and then stop at the cemetery.  I made excuses not to drive out of my way.

But, then I was a bit more honest with myself about why I wasn’t going. I stopped going because I realized that my visits only made me angry.  I realized that when I went by the cemetery I spent more time cursing at someone who made a catastrophic mistake the day they missed a stop sign.  I felt more angry that my mom and sister were no longer here with me, that my family had been torn apart, that my Dad no longer seemed to care about me.  I felt frustrated at the events in my life that they had missed – like my high school graduation or my wedding or even just a simple family dinner or a conversation about nothing important.  I felt anger that my sister missed out on so many firsts that she should have had – no-one should die at the age of 15, it just isn’t right!  I hated that my mom didn’t get to see her children grow up and mature into pretty decent adults.  I despised seeing my last name on the back of the headstone – this wasn’t supposed to be how my family turned out. Seeing my mom’s smiling face and my sister’s innocence etched into the headstone made my blood boil. I hated that I had to visit a cemetery to visit my mom and my sister.

And with this, I realized that I never left the cemetery feeling better.  I simply left feeling bitter and angry.

I also knew that I did not want to spend my life bitter and/or angry, I cannot live that life, I need to be more then that.  I’m the one living today and I owe it to myself and to them to live positively just as they did.

I realize that for me, a headstone is simply a marker of a life once lived, but it is not life. I also realize that I do not have to stop by the cemetery to feel a connection with either of them. Even with my confused thoughts on the afterlife, one thing I adamantly believe is that just because their ashes are there does not mean they are.  In fact, I don’t believe for a second that they are there.  Ironically, as the headstone says they are in my heart, yesterday, today and into the future.

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40 Comments on “Why I Do Not Visit

  1. They are in your heart and would be so proud of the woman you are as you influence and encourage others on a daily basis with your blog! I wish I knew why bad things happen to good people. I’m impressed with your ability to look inside yourself to see that those visits were no longer what you needed-that’s not always an easy task. Opening up and talking about your mom and sister is a lovely way to remember and to leave a legacy. Blessings friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your compassion Meredith! I do hope that they are proud of me, that has always been one of the most important things to me. 🙂
      I’m a talker, so talking about them is just part of life for me. Some people find it awkward, but I figure that’s there problem not mine. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re most welcome! Talking is therapeutic for me as well-I totally get that that’s how you honor their legacy. I think it’s beautiful to acknowledge our loved ones that have passed and their influence on our lives:)

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  2. I’ve always been fascinated by the history found within a graveyard. I go and visit my Grandfather and my Great-Grandparents every couple of years when I am in that town. For me, it’s more of a reminiscent activity. My dad used to take me there as a kid. I know I would feel completely different if it were my mom and a sibling. I wholeheartedly agree with you that you do not need to go there to feel connected. Sending much love to you ❤

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    • I too have similar memories of visiting my grandparents headstones during the summer when we were traveling. I actually never had bad memories associated with visiting their headstones, I don’t think I was old enough to comprehend and I also know that they all died of old age related things which is just so much different from my mom and sister. Anyways, thank you for this.

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      • Definitely different. I had a close Aunt die in an accident when I was 18 and I’ve never visited her grave. I anticipate it would also be much harder for me.

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  3. I firmly believe that you do whatever you have to in order to find peace. For a while, that meant stopping by their graves. Do it. But when it doesn’t serve that purpose anymore, it is okay to let it go.

    As I’m learning, grief is a long process. There is no right, one path.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You are so right, grief is a long process, and the path is ever changing. Today I may choose not to visit, but one day I may find a need to, and that’s okay.

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  4. Thank you for sharing such intimate thoughts. You are surely helping people work through their thoughts and grief by sharing your story in such a way. Xo

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  5. I can’t begin to imagine the anger and bitterness you feel when you go there. I believe I’d feel the same way. It would be one thing if they died of natural causes or even a dreadful disease, but them being there because of a very quick mistake by someone else seems unbearable.

    Thinking of you. This breaks my heart for you.

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    • Thank you Courtney. I do think you make a good point about the difference between a “natural” death an a “accident” death – death is never easy, but there is something cruel and unfair about an accident that could have been prevented.

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  6. As you know, my dad died when I was 6. I grew up visiting his gravesite with my mom on all of the holidays. I always went there with tears stinging in my eyes, and left feeling empty, hollowed out and broken.

    As an adult, I’ve only visited once, to take my (then) long-term partner to see his grave. It broke my heart. I realized that my dad is with me in spirit, and visiting his gravestone does nothing but break my heart. I feel the pain on a day-to-day basis anyway, in varying degrees (I know you ‘get’ this), but I just don’t like visiting that space. It doesn’t do anything for me to honour my dad that way.

    My mom still goes, though. She buys flowers for his grave and those of her parents (who are buried next to my dad). To each their own, right?

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    • Thank you so much for sharing with me, it sounds like we are very similar in our ways to processing the grief around our losses. I very much know what you mean about the day-to-day pain that comes in varying degrees.
      I cannot help but wonder with our similarities (and differences too) what a real life conversation over a cup of tea would be like!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My heart aches with you. Thank you for sharing. And I also believe that they are WITH you, as a part of who you are, not at the grave.

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  8. You visit with them every time you recall a happy memory or whenever their names pop in your mind or when your heart flutters with memories of them. That is when and where you visit them, not at their grave-site. Thinking of you.

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  9. *hugs* My mom was cremated and we have no burial site for her. Plus, I live half a world away, so visiting wouldn’t be practical at all. As you say, they are in our hearts.

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    • Sometimes I wonder why so many cultures use gravestones to mark those who pass before us. I think the idea of ashes being spread in nature is simply beautiful (I’m not sure if this is the case for your mom, but it’s what came to mind when I read your comment)..
      I am so sorry for your loss as well.

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  10. This was hard for me to read, and not in a bad way. It brought tears to my eyes. This kind of heartache I’m not familiar with. I am glad you are doing what’s best for you. And you’ll visit when you find the need, but as you said, in your heart is where their legacy lives on. Thinking about you, giving lots of hugs! XO

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    • Thank you so much Mrs. Brooks. I really do appreciate your support and your hugs too! I believe you are right, at some point in the future, when I need to, I will visit again. But they will always “live” in my heart.

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  11. Thanks for the insight into the evolution of your grieving process. Your decision not to visit anymore makes sense to me, and I’m sure your mom and sister would understand as well. I like the image of you stopping by to visit before you moved away, and just sitting there remembering and being warmed by the signs that other people had been there too. I used to do the same thing with my grandfather’s grave when I was a kid, and I don’t visit there anymore either. You’re still thinking about them and remembering them, and they’re still a part of your life through your memories and the ways they influenced your childhood. That’s the most important memorial they will have.

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    • Your words “You’re still thinking about them and remembering them, and they’re still a part of your life through your memories and the ways they influenced your childhood. That’s the most important memorial they will have.” are so incredibly beautiful. Thank you so much for this lyra.

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  12. I am so glad you were able to be honest with yourself! Your mom and sister would never want you to spend time at the cemetery (or anywhere for that matter) if it meant you would be leaving more miserable than you had arrived. I’m sure they would rather you feel happiness and love when you think of them, not anger. I have lost many people in my life so it would be almost impossible for me to visit all of their grave sites. I decided long ago that I would do something simple but meaningful on their birthdays. (Like eating Godiva chocolate on my best friend’s b-day). I can’t help but think of them on the anniversary of their death but I do my best to keep it at a minimum so I don’t spend the whole day in a constant temper tantrum. I’m so sorry for your loss! I believe your mom and sister would be proud of the woman you have become! xoxoxo

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    • I love the idea of eating Godiva chocolate on your best friend’s birthday – I have never thought to honour them in such a simple way on dates important to their lives!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing such a beautiful idea with me. I am so sorry for your losses as well.

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      • Absolutely my pleasure! As my favorite author says “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” – Dr. Seuss. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it does me. Godiva was her favorite and the last thing we ate together. Sometimes PC brings me some when I’m having a bad day. Warms my heart. xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I never know what to say when you write such moving posts but I wanted you know that I am moved every time (often to tears), even if I just click the like button.

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  14. As we’ve said so many times, a person’s grieving process is singular to them. There should be honor in that, whether or not it conforms to conventional notions of grieving.

    And honestly, who needs to visit a certain place to commune with those who have passed on?? They are all around us and within us, as well.

    With heart,
    Dani

    Like

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