Soup and Pie (On Observing The Anniversary of a Loss)


Today marks the 9th anniversary of the day we lost my Dad (for more on this click here). I can’t wrap my head around this number, some days it feels like I’ve spent my entire life without him and then other days I still go to call him.

Thoughts of the March we buried him still haunt me, many of my memories are of staring down at my black ballet flats, on the funeral home carpet, on the painted concrete of the church, on the freezing grass at the cemetery.

Head bowed, soul overcome

In the end it all happened, it’s not a phantom or a figment of my imagination. He is gone and I am here, with a family and a life he isn’t a part of and cannot touch or enter into except in memory and remembered wisdom.

Softly in spirit sometimes, although usually painfully absent

The first anniversary of his death was hard, we all gathered at the cemetery as a family and words were spoken over the shiny, black marble headstone. We shivered and felt lost, still unable to believe that he was gone and not quite sure what to do about it. A year, a year without David, without Dad.

Gathering those who remember, this is one thing to do about an anniversary of loss.

The second anniversary of his death was possibly harder, we were newly married and I was in my last year of college. I called a few friends and asked them if they would join me in my grief, if we could eat my two favorite comfort foods together (soup and pie) and laugh or cry as needed, as the evening led.

They came into our apartment slowly and I tried to smile and reassure them that this wasn’t going to be weird. But was it? Would it be weird?

Some brought cards and flowers. There were 8 of us all together, or so, my memory is hazy on certain details. We shared soup from the restaurant down the street and store-bought pie.

We sat on couches, plaid hidden under slipcovers, and in a semi circle on the floor. With our warm bowls gathered in front of us I looked into the eyes of each face and thanked them from the depths of me for their willingness to come, to remember and to weather whatever this was.

I think I mentioned my Dad a few times but it was no formal service of prompts or intentional remembering. It was simply a gathering of friends who loved so well that they were willing to enter into the awkward unknown of my grief.

Willing to say “On this Day where darkness feels eminent, I will bring light into your apartment. I will share a bowl of soup over something hard.”

When it comes to remembering a grief, marking a day that has permanently marked your life all I can tell you is this: Remember and Invite.

Don’t pretend it’s not the day that it is, be open with your friends and coworkers that this date on the calendar (which may seem ordinary to many) is a dark square on yours. A day marked with loss.

If they know you, they’ll know the weight that the day carries but in the telling you will create an openness, a vulnerability, an invitation that gives others the knowledge they need to love well, to offer grace.

You point to this day and say this? This is going to be a tough one to weather and I wanted you to know. 

You can even take a step farther and say “this is what I need.” … if you know… and you won’t always know.

This is when the brave ones will enter in and do their best to love well, bring your favorite latte, cover you at a meeting, take you out to lunch, send you a text, a prayer, a hug, a grace.

Be open, do something, do what feels like the right thing to do to abide .

Honesty, Openness, Invitation, this is my best advice for observing loss anniversaries well.

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  • annevermeulen

    Lots of love to you today, Leanne. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you Anne, for reading, for speaking up :) It’s a grace in my day.

  • Abby Norman

    Please tell me you have your book proposal ready. This story of yours, the way you explain grief. We need it.

    • Leanne Penny

      This is one of the best compliments I could have received right now.

  • Jill –

    You do life so well even (especially) in the mess. I admire how you open yourself up to love and support. Thinking of you today!

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you love, you really do say the most wonderful things… er… type the most wonderful things.

  • Katie

    Thanks, Leanne. The third anniversary of my dads death was 2 weeks ago. I kept some friends and definitely my coworkers from the reality of the day- which doesn’t help in the end.

    • Leanne Penny

      Katie I am so sorry about your Dad and though not everyone knew, I hope that you felt support on that day.

  • rachel lee

    I have not yet hit the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I’m still numb over the whole thing inside, I think. this way you explain it, you make me feel so normal. I love you and I love your perspective.

  • Mark Allman

    Like I said in Elora’s post those true friends of yours will wade into the uncomfortable; the unknown; the uneasy; to be there; to just love you by saying with their presence that you are worthy and I want to take the time to show up and let you know even though it be hard; if it means something to you it means something to me. Your grief means something to me Leanne.

    My wife is a very private person so on the anniversary of her mother’s death I knew she would want no one but our family there so I got us each a candle and we each lit the candle and talked about the best things we remembered about her mom; me; my wife and our kids went round and round. I bought her mom’s favorite pie(coconut creme) and we ate it remembering her. Tears and laughter followed.