I didn’t forget his birthday this year.
Two weeks ago, as I was going about my morning, my whole body slowed to a stop. There was a knowing in my bones and a familiar weight that overtook my cells.
I looked at my phone… November 4th.
Ah, of course.
He would have been 35.
The grief was lighter, different than any year before. And while I didn’t write about it then, talk about it with anyone around me, or even reach out to text his family, I held him in my heart throughout the day.
It’s been eight years since his last birthday.
Seven years and 11 months since he chose to leave us all.
Several lifetimes since he turned my world inside out.
“How long after your loss did you realize you’d healed?” I was asked the other day. I responded with only a laugh at first because that’s such a challenging question to answer.
Technically I started healing a handful of weeks after my loss when a friend gifted me energy work that helped me to breathe normally for the first time. Or maybe it was seven months after my brain began deteriorating from PTSD, and I had my first process. Or two years later, when I finally started honoring myself and my truth because I had stopped swallowing for nine days and nearly died.
The answer: healing is a journey.
It happens in layers, and sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. It’s confusing and chaotic and takes far longer than any of us want to say because grief never leaves us. It doesn’t get smaller. It doesn’t get “healed away.” We simply learn to carry it differently. We grow around and with it. We’re shaped because of it.
I’m happier, healthier, and more aligned than ever.
I’ve healed, and I continue to heal.
I am who I am because he lived and because he died.
His story will always be woven into mine, and I’m sure my body will never stop remembering the significant dates for as long as I live, even if I don’t cry over them anymore. Even if I hold them close to my heart.
And… there’s a lightness this year that I don’t take for granted.
It’s no longer the primary storyline I’m living.
It’s no longer a heavy weight, but an integrated piece of me.
And while I’ll never be grateful for his death, I’ll always be thankful for what I learned and who I chose to become in the aftermath of it.