Grief and freedom: musings on 4th of July
Grief and freedom go hand-in-hand sometimes. I often think about what freedom means around July. My family always celebrated July 4th growing up. It was fun, solemn in ways, and joyous. One such July 4th weekend though, it all changed.
Grief And Freedom: Musings On 4th Of July
Loss/ Death/ Grief in Holidays By Trisha Goodall
Grief and freedom go hand-in-hand sometimes. I often think about what freedom means around July. My family always celebrated July 4th growing up. It was fun, solemn in ways, and joyous. One such July 4th weekend though, it all changed. After a particularly late night celebrating with friends, we met another car on the one-lane road back home. It took a bit of time to recognize my Mammaw stepping out of the other car, just getting off her shift at the diner.
Grief when we should be celebrating
I heard her wailing “Is he with you? Jimmy! Is he with you?” My mom’s confused answer “No.” And I saw my Mammaw collapse in her daughter’s arms. “He’s in that HOUSE!!! No!!!” We didn’t go “home” that night, but instead to my Dad’s (that’s a longer story for another time) trailer. That next morning my mother was red-eyed and solemn, she had something to share with us. Our house had burned down and Pappaw was indeed inside the house, burned alive.
“Complicated” is insufficient to describe the relationship, the holiday celebrations moving forward, the enormity of the grief.
Years later when my sister “grew up” and married, she married into a crazy family that took July 4th celebrations to the max, launching fireworks at each other. He brought a toned-down version of that crazy to our family, bringing over boxes of fireworks, bringing a different mood to the grill.
Freedom seals in that the grief will be okay
I’ve celebrated the 4th of July with my family every year since, except for 2020. So for me, the 4th of July is a day of remembrance, a day of joy, a day of healing, a day of grief and freedom, and the celebration seals it in – that we’re okay and joy is back.
And, in 2020 I learned about Juneteenth because I’m a privileged white woman and our schools are not sufficient in teaching what is truly important. And it occurred to me the obvious – that Black people weren’t free back in 1776. That didn’t happen until years later. And even after the law put into effect, it took 2 years for it to be enforced by Union soldiers in Galveston, TX on June 19th, 1865.
So, if you hear people say “4th of July” isn’t the real independence day, it’s not a zero-sum game. If July 4th is important, or complicated, or special to you – celebrate. But for me, I wonder if we could celebrate Juneteenth as the real “Independence Day” and July 4th as a step to freedom.
What would real freedom mean?
But why stop there? Keeping in mind that women and POC were not involved in the constitution and laws for a long time in this country, how can we work towards true freedom and independence? What does it mean to be free when we have an automatic giant expense for birthing our children? For not being given the adequate paid time away from work to bond with our babes and recover?
What about the world that keeps telling moms we’re amazing for doing it all and yet never offering us help? What do we do with this?
What do you think?
What is July 4th for you?
What does freedom mean for you?