The impact of anniversaries
What is it about certain dates?
There aren't very many days when a thought about Kevin doesn't cross my mind. It’s not really surprising that there are still so many associations that trigger these, after all, we were together for most of my adult life. Familiar objects, tunes, posts from his family on Facebook, even certain foods will trigger fond memories or more rarely, a remembered aggravation. The thoughts are not painful they are merely there. A fact of life after a death. Each year it is different, because each year I am different but I still notice the anniversaries – of the day we got married, of his birthday and of his death. Today it is 8 years since he passed away. 8 years since his pain ended and mine grew exponentially. Looking back now
to those early dark days I marvel at how I coped with the overwhelming all consuming pain. But I did. At first living minute by minute, lifting my eyes to a horizon more distant than that was simply not within the realms of the physically possible. No one tells you that bereavement causes physical pain too. It felt like every cell in my body was screaming the agony of separation from their opposite number in him.
I was fortunate though. I had support of my family and some good friends. Yes I found out who were my real friends – more losses ensued as people I thought would be there for me simply weren’t. However I also discovered that some people I previously considered more as social acquaintances proved to be wonderful, supportive, patient loving people. So there were gains too.
I didn’t feel that way at the time but looking back on those early months I was lucky. I didn’t have a job to get back to. I didn’t have children or pets. In short I had nothing to focus on but my grief and it was unrelenting. So why was I lucky? Precisely because I had nowhere to hide I had to actively grieve rather than bury my feelings in “keeping busy.” I got lucky again when I discovered the Grief Recovery Handbook which helped my resolve all those undelivered communications to Kevin that were keeping me trapped in the pain. This meant that while I was still grieving my huge loss I did manage to let go of my anger & frustration with him and say all the things you imagine you’re going to say when someone is terminally ill but that for a variety of reasons we didn’t.
So while I wasn’t “happy” following that work I was at peace with myself and able to rebuild my life. It looked very different to the life that went before. It still wasn’t the life I had wanted but I did get to choose what I did next and I chose to live and embrace life fully precisely because I realised that not everyone gets the opportunity to choose.
Scrolling forward to today my life is very different again. I am in love with a wonderful supportive man who understands my work in helping others. My heart is whole, and I’ve given it to him without reservation or regret. Because of the actions I’ve taken to recover from my grief I am confident that I’m not attempting to patch my heart up with a new relationship. Ian realises that when I’m sad this is a normal human emotion and is no reflection of my feelings for him and we all get sad from time to time.
By some fluke of fate our appointment with the Registrar to book our wedding was 15 days ago, part of the process is that notices are placed on a board to give anyone to object. (The civil equivalent in the UK of having Banns read) This means that from today we are legally OK to marry, a bizarre synchronisation that generated emotions I couldn’t name and do you know what? That’s fine too.
Humans have a full set of emotions that range from utter sadness to deep joy and everything in-between. Sadly our society is very uncomfortable with this and only want us to have positive emotions and if we really can’t be “happy” then we should hide ourselves away until we are “better.” This concept of “grieve alone” is incredibly unhelpful yet it is pervasive.
I’m writing this today because inevitably the date has stimulated thoughts and feelings associated with this date over the last 8 years. Some years have been sadder than others. It is not linear because time is not the dictating factor I am. The actions I take, how I feel about what else is going on in my life all contribute as to whether an anniversary is a few sad thoughts for a few minutes or a reflective mood that lasts all day. Each and every day is an anniversary for someone – some happy, some sad. If you know someone is approaching an anniversary which might be difficult give them a call or better still go and see them. You can’t fix them – grievers don’t need fixing as there is nothing wrong with them. They do need to be heard, so please, don’t leave them to grieve alone.
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