What to Do When the Casseroles Stop Coming: First Anniversary of a Loved One’s Loss

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About three weeks after a funeral, most people stop checking on you. The offerings become a smattering of well wishes and hopes you’re doing “better”. However, you might not be “better”. The anniversary of a loved one’s passing, particularly the first, sometimes is the toughest. Many books say that one year is “long enough” to grieve.

One year may be enough for some, but for others, especially people with small or dysfunctional families, it may not be. If your loved one died of a violent act, the grief may last a lifetime. And no matter the circumstances, it may go through many metamorphoses.

We all grieve differently. I will never forget what Billy Graham said in a radio interview. We should never judge the way someone else grieves. It is personal and sacred. Telling someone it will all be “better” soon is not okay. Define “soon” to someone who is in pain, and it never comes soon enough.

Who do you turn to when you know you should be “better”? Friends and some family members may tell you it’s time to move on. Worse yet, they may use the term “closure”.  What is closure? Is there such a thing? Closure can feel like a betrayal to the memory of someone. There must be a word that more eloquently defines the transition.

That first-year anniversary can be a lonely and painful rite of passage. I wish someone had told me what to expect. I understood not to bother my friends and family with what I had endured or witnessed, but the calendar is a reminder of time moving on when we feel like we can’t catch up with our own.

Let’s face it, talking about the end of anyone’s life reminds us of our own mortality, including ourselves. When we overshare with our friends or talk too much about how much we hurt. That it is hurting other people because they feel helpless. There really is nothing they can do. Downloading the pain is only momentary relief. Action may be required.

I remember coming home from work on February 2, 2012. I had this ominous anxiety flooding me like a tsunami for seemingly no apparent reason. It was about 6:00 pm. As I am a mental health counselor, I had to practice what I preach.

I asked myself, “Did something happen about a year ago, at this time?”

I went through it in my mind, and it was exactly one year to the date and time I was at the hospital when they were transferring my mother to another hospital room. There was this odd knowing that she would not come out of this episode. She did not. The hospital called me about four hours later, and I was there when my mother made her transition.

Hospice couldn’t have been nicer. The hospital was helpful. My brother came home for almost a week. While I am writing this, it is almost a year since I was aware of my brother’s passing, so I am passing the message on to you: Focus on action, not reaction.

Dearest friends can keep vigil with you for a while but that can only last for so long. We can only lean on others before they have to step back and deal with their inevitable tragedies and triumphs. Time does move on even when we can’t.

The casseroles do stop coming. People do stop asking. But the heart and mind keep receiving the message that something is wrong.

How do you make right of it?

What often works, is not a memorial service but doing something of service, some tangible physical action you can take to stop the emotional reaction you are feeling. I am hoping to help you through Open to Hope that we all will go through this. We all are alike and we all grieve, but we do it in our own ways. I prefer to send a message that this time I am doing something proactive that day instead of reactive.
I am helping to arrange a baby shower and made the call today. It helped me to find a new life to celebrate.
Do what helps you!
Talking with one or two others of like mind and circumstance often help the most. When we are understood, our grief doesn’t seem so insurmountable and listen to them, too. As we listen to one another we don’t get closure but we do have an enclosure of a person to person sacred sanctuary to pause, reflect and begin another day on this side of heaven.

 

Mary Joye

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I was raised on the beach. My father was a psychiatrist and I worked in his office in my youth. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps. I chose to become a theatrical design major instead and graduated from the University of Florida in 1979. First job out of college, KISS hired me as a make-up and wardrobe assistant, but I was much like Gidget on a heavy metal tour. I was a pretty good kid and Gene Simmons helped me get to Nashville. There I began songwriting, acting and performing professionally and am a member of BMI, ASCAP and a former member of the Country Music Association, Screen Actors Guild and The American Federation of Musicians. That career grew into a 20-year music ministry. I also wrote ad copy for XM radio, Texaco, The Filmhouse and currently write for 2 publications here in Winter Haven, Florida, where I returned to take care of my ill and now deceased parents. I earned an MA in Counseling from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2000 and finished what it took to become licensed in Florida. Writing is a huge part of my solution-focused practice.

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