A common theme that arises in discussions at our Loss Foundation bereavement support get togethers is that of anniversaries and special events. This is especially poignant around Christmas and New year, but also moves on to other ‘events’.
A main one is the first anniversary of a loved one’s passing; which can seem like a milestone of sorts. The notion of not having seen your loved one for a whole year is a really poignant thought; for some people they cannot believe it has been a year “already” but equally, others feel like it seems longer than that too. Somehow a year has gone by and sometimes we don’t know how we survived it… But we did.
Some feel that the marking of a year having gone by could be done in a way that our loved ones would have liked, whether that is raising a glass of wine with friends, or spending it with family, or something else personal to you. Others feel that they do not know what they were meant to do on that day and lean towards keeping busy and just wanting to get through it.
It is not uncommon to find our mind telling us that there is a right and a wrong way to do things, and some people can struggle in knowing what to do ‘on the day’. There are no ‘shoulds’. You can only do what feels right for you on the day, whether that be distracting yourself or being with others or lighting a candle… And if you don’t know what feels right to you, then maybe it’s best to go in with no expectations at all, and just take it hour by hour getting by as best you can.
On the one year anniversary of my father’s death, family and I lit a sky lantern and watched it float away in the night sky. Whatever action you choose it may come with the feeling of wishing you were not in this position; I remember feeling that way. And yet, the sky lantern was comforting in that brief moment – maybe because I really needed it to be.
The word ‘anniversary’ also has connotations of celebration and some feel that word isn’t appropriate. This raises an interesting point, yet what word could we use instead?
There are other ‘anniversaries’ and events that represent different milestones of sorts; e.g. celebrating a child’s 21st or our own 50th without having our loved one there to share it with us. We did not envision experiencing those events without our loved ones and so it is understandably difficult when they come by and we feel like the ground has been swept from under our feet. It can make us feel like any progress we have made has diminished if we start feeling as low as we have done previously. This is completely understandable, and in some ways it is completely appropriate to feel that way.
You are allowed to feel sad for the things that are sad, and you are allowed to hate the situation, but try not to interpret those feelings as a sign that you are doing badly or are going backwards in your grief. It seems this unknown path of grief presents itself with twists and turns that are unpredictable. You can only do the best you can, and we highly encourage you to have outlets for when things are hard.
Speak to friends, write down how you feel, try relaxation techniques, keep busy, cry, come to our meetings, speak to a stranger… any of these things may help – you don’t know unless you try.
We are here to be your outlet.
With best wishes,