After losing my husband to brain cancer last year, I was often warned about the one-year anniversary of losing a loved one. The Death Anniversary. I was no stranger to this feeling; I had lost my father when I was a kid and my mother passed away the year before last… except this time was different. This time it wasn’t just me I had to worry about, but how my kids would handle it too.

As the day approached I experienced many different emotions, as did those around me. After coping with the day, I now have some wisdom to share that can hopefully help you make it through such a difficult time.

Slow Your Roll

The month before the one-year mark I felt an emotional shift – I hit a wall. I felt unable to keep moving at my usual pace neither at work nor after. I even noticed I was walking slower. But I took all of this as I sign that maybe I really did need to slow down; I needed some time to reflect.

So what did I do? I thought back to that same time the year prior. I remembered what was happening to my husband at that time last year.  His health so rapidly declined and we shared our last moments as a family and as a couple. It was painful to reflect, but I am grateful that he did not suffer for long and did not full realize what was happening. This reflection allowed me to feel things I had been holding back from last year – and slowing down was what allowed this process to happen. It was much needed.

Go “Inward Bound”

Around the anniversary of my husband’s death I spent a lot of time alone. This is what I needed to do in order to fully process what happened in my life. I went from living a somewhat blissful life, to being a caretaker, then a single parent living alone.  My body and mind were unable to take it all in when it was happening, but the grief was lingering all along and eventually I was able to allow my emotions to seep through. It was hard work and exhausted me at times, but I did not push it away and I let it in.  By doing this, I cried a lot (when I was alone) and reflected often about all of the positive things in my life; I have two beautiful daughters who I am proud of beyond measure, a good business, wonderful family and friends who supported me through the diagnosis and many smart people around me who have been guiding me in the right direction. I am one lucky person.

Create a Plan

I knew the day was coming and I needed to protect my kids and myself from the anticipated milestone. When my husband’s health was weakening, and on the day he passed, we were surrounding by so many family members and loving friends that it was hard for my kids and myself to show our real emotions. This is what made me realize that we needed to go solo on marking the moment – I wanted us to be able feel and not worry about anyone seeing us grieve.

Before I made any set plans, I spoke to both of my daughters separately to see how each of them were coping and together we decided to go to the cemetery to visit their father’s headstone and gain some closure. It was their first time going back to the cemetery since his funeral. I wrote a little speech to honor him and said a few prayers.  We all cried together and it was a healing and private moment that we shared as we have been missing the 4th link that made us a family.

After all was said and done we went home, got primped up at the nail salon, ordered in Thai food and watched a movie. We ended the day on a high note. We got through it together. It was teamwork!

The Day

I actually woke up that day feeling like I was having an out of body experience. I started the day with a run through Central Park, I planned to work and I set the stage for my kids – one in college who went to classes and carried on as normal and the other out in the working world who not only went to work but made a big presentation and nailed it. My kids and I were in contact all day to support each other through the emotionality of the moment.  I heard from my nearest and dearest in a gentle and loving way and it was very much appreciated. When the day came, it was not as painful as the preparation.

Notice When the Clouds Pass

Several days passed before I realized what I had overcome. I felt as if a very heavy black cloud was passing. My kids and I made it through our first year of firsts and no one was worse from the wear of the experience. We had all grown a lot, both individually and as a family unit, from all of the challenges we faced and accomplishments we met.

We are more than ok – we are survivors. We can all agree that we feel a little stronger from making it through such a difficult time.

John Lennon said it best, “All you need it love.”


Susan Kaden

Susan’s experience: She has a bachelors from NYU school of education. She is a 2008 graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition through Columbia University Teachers College. She also received cancer coaching training from She has coached many individuals to live their best lives, led workshops to high school classes, and inspired people working at corporate offices creating her own unique, “Wellness at Work” program to help busy executives manage their hectic lifestyles while transitioning into a healthier way of life. In addition to her work, Susan shares a wonderful life with her two daughters and dog, Harley. Her passions are exercising and enjoying quality time with family and friends.

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