The word “anniversary” takes on a whole new meaning for widow/ers, or for any griever. An anniversary date is any meaningful date to you and your loved one. The hardest anniversary date usually is the one that commemorates the day of the death.
There have been many psychological-based articles written on the importance of the one year marker. Do not be fooled that at one year all your grief will magically dissipate, and you will be ready to move on with your life. Please do not misunderstand me. The one year anniversary is a very important date. It is a marker of all that you have accomplished by yourself. You have managed to cope with all the seasons of the year and the hard days they have brought; you have made independent decisions; you have supported your family financially and emotionally; and you have grown more than you can imagine.
And if you have not yet reached this point, please know that all these things and more can be accomplished with some hard work and introspection on your part. The cliché “time heals all wounds” is a little misleading. Does it mean that in one year, or two or five, you will not miss your loved one or feel the pain of his/her absence? I think not. Grief is never fully dissolved. Do not expect to wake up one morning and feel like you did before your loss. That is not possible. You are
What time does is give you more perspective. It also does dissolve the actual physical pain that you feel inside. It allows you to decide when you will fully feel your grief and when you can compartmentalize it — that is, put it away for a while and deal with the present. It is what you do to help yourself during the passage of time that will be the greatest aid in your recovery.
Do not be afraid of change. Change forces you to grow and hopefully become a better, more fully developed person. It is you who will decide how your grief will affect your life. On one hand, you can sink deep into your grief and never see that there is still life going on around you — life in which you can participate. On the other hand, you can be proactive in adjusting to your new circumstances and see all the positive things around you.
In dealing with anniversary dates and holiday times, including Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, there are going to be changes in how you celebrate. Probably the best advice is to have open and honest communication with your family and friends about what these changes are and how you are going to go about implementing them. You need to decide how, and if, you wish to include your deceased partner in future events.
Making a scrapbook filled with pictures and mementos of happy times, watching home videos, reminiscing about past events, and telling childhood stories about a deceased parent are various ways to keep memories alive. Some widow/ers with younger children find it helpful to send a balloon off to the heavens with a message for the deceased parent. Others find it helpful to picnic at the cemetery.
The important fact to remember is that there is no right or wrong way. Do what feels good to you and your family. If you feel sad — feel sad. You don’t have to be strong for others. By ignoring your true emotions, they become bottled up inside just waiting to explode one day. Live each emotion fully, and then let it pass through your system. Don’t feel guilty if over the passage of time your sadness lessens. Try not to become attached to your grief. Don’t let it define who you are.
You are the master of your emotions, and it is you alone who will determine how this devastating loss will affect the rest of your life.