I guess I’m far enough along now in the “grief process” that it’s more or less a dull ache I’ve learned to live with.

I don’t cry every day anymore. I was able to go through a lot of her stuff recently and smile fondly rather than sob. I can hear songs that remind me of her or read books we read together and be wistful and grateful without falling into a grief spiral. 

And I’m not really numb now, not like I was. I’m pretty sure that after I got the terrible, world-shattering news that morning, I calmly said, “OK, thank you,” and hung up. It took me at least 5 minutes before it fully sank in and even longer before I actually could make myself believe it.

Overall, I’m getting better. I’m getting stronger. I’m as close to “acceptance” as I think maybe I’ll ever be. It’s still not easy, though.

Her birthday, last Saturday, was bad, and mine – this Friday – will be worse. 

It feels wrong for her birthday, for my whole life a day of joy and celebration, to now be a day that makes me especially sad. 

And it feels impossible to celebrate my own birthday without the person who actually gave birth to me. Every year, she’d tell me the story: the labor pains started around noon and were regular right from the start, so she headed straight to the hospital. Once there, her contractions subsided, and she was so embarrassed at the idea of having to call her mom and tell her she wasn’t in labor after all. But soon enough, it really got going, and her biggest complaint was that my father had onion soup for lunch and then tried to do Lamaze breathing with her but was really doing nothing more but panting onion breath in her face and annoying the crap out of her. I was born after a very fast pushing phase (“I’ve taken dumps worse than giving birth to you,” she’d always say), and she cried, “My baby, my baby!” as they placed me on her chest. Later, she watched a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on PBS while nursing me and said she had never felt such peace. 

I can tell myself the story, but it’s not the same. 

I can blow out my candles and make a wish, but the only thing I want is to have her back.

I keep saying I’m getting better, doing better, but I found myself weeping in the car this weekend listening to a story on NPR. (To be fair, it was a segment called, “You Say Goodbye,” which is inherently cry-inducing.)

The writer of the story, Becca Stevens, described grief as a way of saying, “Thank you. I loved you.”

I can’t think of a better way to put it.

Just a few days shy of my birthday, I’m so grateful for what I had (and so sad for what I lost).

Mom, thank you. I loved you. And thank you. For loving me.