Anniversary Reactions and a Strange Week

February 23rd was the sixth anniversary of my daughter’s death.  A week before this day came, my mind was filled with memories of my daughter.  I remembered the sugar-free apple pies she baked for us.  I remembered how much fun she had with her twins.  I remembered her sitting on our living room floor, laughing uproariously, and slapping her knee.

Some unhappy memories also came to mind and I accepted them.  “I’m going to be okay,” I told myself.

But things weren’t okay and I kept making mistakes, silly mistakes I wouldn’t ordinarily make.  For example, I sent my graphic designer the wrong photo number.  When I was proofreading headings I found some reversed words.   At dinner time, I forgot to turn off a stove burner.  Thankfully, I discovered this mistake when I was doing the dishes.

These mistakes worried me.  What was the problem?  It took me a few days to realize I was dreading the anniversary of my daughter’s death.  To keep me from going backwards on the recovery path, I made a plan.  Actually, family members made the plan and they decided February 23rd would be a family day.  I was touched by their thoughtfulness.

The day began with me drinking coffee at the kitchen table and posting about my deceased daughter on Facebook.  Several tears trickled down my face as I entered the post.   My granddaughter had come home for the weekend and we shared a teary moment together.  “Today is the sixth anniversary of you mother’s death,” I began.

“I know,” she replied softly.

“Grandpa and I have not forgotten her,” I assured her, and then I burst into tears.  We hugged like we had never hugged before, and I felt close to my granddaughter and I think she felt close to me.

“Nobody has forgotten her,” my granddaughter replied.  I nodded my head in agreement and muttered something about crying on the anniversary of her mother’s death.  “It will be like this for the rest of my days,” I said.  And maybe it will.  Teas are an expression of love and there’s nothing wrong with crying. 

Later, family members gathered at a local restaurant for lunch.  It was supposed to be a birthday celebration of my granddaughter’s 21st birthday, which had occurred the previous week.  However, I think lunch was also group support for all family members.  On this special day we wanted to be with one another.  My granddaughter posted about her mother on Facebook, thanking her for guidance in life, and my remaining daughter posted too. 

Since I had done my grief work, written articles and books about grief, spoken about recovery, I was surprised at my tears.  I wasn’t down or depressed; I was missing my daughter.  Therese A. Rando, PhD, author of How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies, says anniversary reactions come from an unconscious internal time clock.  These reactions are normal “as long as they do not unduly interfere for too long with your functioning or reduce your ability to have enjoyment and gratification in your life,” she writes.

Though I miss my daughter, I am living a happy and rewarding life.  I feel like she is cheering me on and saying “You go Mom.  Enjoy every day.” 

 

 

Harriet Hodgson

More Articles Written by Harriet

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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  • Sarah says:

    First, I am very sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing such an emotional and personal moment with us. Anniversaries are such a tough time, no matter if it has been a year or five or even ten. There will always be those moments when you miss the ones you love the most — anniversaries just happen to be one of those times. Often, no matter how much you mentally prepare yourself for that anniversary day, you more than likely will have some form of reaction. We all just have to remember that it is OK to feel sad or feel like we are missing our loved ones, but not to wallow in the feelings for too long. As awful as it sounds, we have to remember to live our lives, to be happy and enjoy our lives. We have remind ourselves to not think that because our loved ones life has come to the end of the chapter ours must as well.

  • Thank you for your comments, Sarah. I agree that we have to remember to live our lives. Multiple losses made this hard for me. Two days after my daughter died, my father-in-law died. Eight weeks later my brother died. In the fall, my grandchildren’s father died in another car crash. Looking back now, I think becoming a GRG, grandparent raising grandchildren, helped me to recover and appreciate my new life.