On my 30th birthday, I went to a funeral

For my 29th birthday, we went to New York City and Philadelphia

On my 30th birthday, I went to a funeral. I don’t want to go into detail, but it was tragic. Not regular funeral tragic, devastating tragic. It was a funeral that we attended because this tragedy struck the family of friends of ours. We went in support and to help them manage a crisis. It was a Saturday, my actual 30th birthday. We tried to make an evening out of it, went to the Market and had dinner with family, which was lovely. But the shadow of the funeral was all over the place.

The next weekend rolled around and my friend who had experienced tragedy, was struggling. I had spent the week going to work, trying to talk to her by phone and struggling myself. The grief was overwhelming, it was suffocating. I was so sad. I was so anxious. It was not a good scene. The Saturday night after the funeral and I’m in rough shape. I don’t even think I showered that day. I had no makeup on, dirty hair and I was wearing my favourite UBC hoodie and jeans. So when Meg got a call from our friend, I didn’t think much of it. Then she said we had to go over to the friend’s house to “let her dog out”. Still didn’t think much of it. But I knew as soon as we pulled up that I was walking into a surprise birthday party. I looked and felt like garbage.

I was so surprised, we even had friends drive down to Kingston from Toronto for the party. I was so touched that they were there and so sad at the same time. It wasn’t exactly the 30th birthday I had had in mind. But what it was, was real. It was authentic and kind. Our friends were so lovely to throw a party and Meg did everything she could to make it a good one. She couldn’t change the fact that I was so sad and so tired. So full of grief and trauma.

So if you have a birthday that doesn’t go well, remember my 30th. It was not the birthday of my dreams. But what I didn’t know was that my life was about to change for the better. I was about to get a job with the federal government. We were about to move to Ottawa and start a whole new life. We were about to have Finley, we just didn’t know it yet. Our whole lives were about to unfold in front of us and all I could think about was how crappy I felt, how sorry I felt for myself. This is the thing about depression, it really messes up the perspective of your life. But with hindsight, I can see now that with therapy. I can see now that my crisis wasn’t related to midlife. It was related to unprocessed trauma. It took another eight years to figure that one out. I wish I had known sooner. But that’s the thing about trauma. Unless you know it’s still there, needing to be worked out, it’ll keep cropping up whether you want it to or not. Even at your birthday party. xo Janet

Published by Janet Gwilliam-Wright

Feminist and queer. Professional teller of truths. Slayer of personal demons.

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