Just like nothing prepares you for the death of a loved one, there is no preparation for the first anniversary of a death. The anticipation of the date can make you just as emotional as the death itself. For all the positive steps forward you have taken over the year, the anniversary can set you back again. Just know that it is a temporary setback, and the strength you have gained over the year will hold you together.

Around the anniversary, the workplace can either be a blessing or a curse. It will depend on what type of individual you are. Some like to be surrounded by others and busy with many tasks to let the day fly by. Others like to be alone, savoring the memories of the loved one they lost, mourning the loss and reflecting on how life has changed.

There is nothing wrong with either approach, nor is there a right approach. What works for you is what is right. Here is some advice for both types of people.

If you are the type of person who likes to be surrounded by others, I would suggest using the workplace to your advantage. Schedule meetings, a luncheon and a social outing after work. When scheduling the meetings, be sure not to overwhelm yourself. The object is to keep yourself busy and challenged but not overwhelmed. That could lead to stress and additional emotion; realistically, it will be an emotional day regardless of how you have handled the year. Give yourself the slack to be emotional if needed. Try not to make any critical decisions as they may be swayed by hidden emotions.

If you are the type who prefers to spend time alone, take the time for yourself. You deserve it! If you don’t have vacation time, ask your management if you can make up the time or ask a co-worker to cover for you. By sharing your situation, you will have more support during this rough period. This would be a perfect time to go on a hike, watch a movie in a theater by yourself, work-out, curl up and read a book, call a long-lost friend, volunteer to help less fortunate people or just stare out a window. This is a personal time for you; do what works best. You deserve the time alone!

Let me close by saying that after years of widowhood, I still fall apart in April, as it is associated with the death of my husband. Once the anniversary goes by, I pick myself up and continue as I did in the previous month. It is a lesson that takes years to master!

Rachel Blythe Kodanaz 2011


Rachel Kodanaz

The idea of writing and speaking on Life Changing Topics was a direct result of my experiences while grieving the unexpected loss of my husband in 1992. At the time, I was a member of management in a large corporation and a mother of a two year-old. The challenges while overwhelming me drove me down a path of rebuilding and finding “the new normal” for my family. After spending several years recovering and helping other grievers, I began assisting companies who were dealing with grieving employees. I published Grief in the Workplace Handbook and a booklet titled Grief in the Workplace. My efforts led to me writing a column for ten years titled “Grief in the Workplace” for Living with Loss (formally Bereavement Magazine), speaking nationally on the subject and appearing on Good Morning America. As I continued my journey to pay it forward to other grievers who are suffering losses, I joined HeartLight Center, a grief center in Denver, Colorado. I was instrumental in developing the programs and infrastructure and over the years held the position of Executive Director, Program Director and was a member of the Board of Directors. In addition, over the last 7 years since the center opened, I facilitated many groups, including Baby Boomer Widow Group, Loss of a Parent and Facing the Mourning. The research and development of the Facing the Mourning program provided me with the opportunity to not only support those who are grieving the loss of a loved one but also support families who are “anticipating” a loss whether it is a terminal diagnosis or form of dementia. As I continue to provide support for those who are experiencing a loss, I maintain my column for Living with Loss, help workplaces implement grief programs and speak nationally on grief-related topics.

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