Death of a Loved One: Coping with the Anniversary

The word anniversary takes on a whole new meaning for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one. Although an anniversary date is any meaningful date to you and the one you’ve lost, the hardest anniversary date is usually the one that commemorates the day of the death.

For me, the anniversary date of the death of my late husband was never as bad as I thought it was going to be. Early on, each year, it would be the couple of weeks that led up to the anniversary that always knocked me for a loop. Surprisingly, I never realized how stressed I was until after the day had passed.

For women, I would liken it to the two weeks before your period; you may not realize how emotional you are until after you get your period. Then, in retrospect, you think back about how you were acting during that time and realize your emotions were on high alert. To put this in perspective for men -- you should know better than to go near a woman when she is experiencing Pre-Menstrual Syndrome!

Personally, I think it is more the anticipation of “the day” than the day itself. It is about reliving those last moments, or, if the death was unexpected, thinking about how you might have lived those last couple of weeks/months differently. I found this time period just burdened with regrets and lots of what-ifs.

By the time the actual anniversary day rolls around, it is almost a relief to know you just have one more day to get through and then you have a fresh year in front of you. I suggest that you allow yourself this space and time to fully grieve. And then, when the day is past, face the next year with renewed determination to live each day to its maximum potential.

To many, the one year anniversary seems to hold the most importance, and, I agree, it is a very significant 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.

But, please, don’t be fooled that at one year all your grief will magically dissipate, and you will be ready to completely move on with your life.

I think the cliché “time heals all wounds” is a little misleading. Does it mean that in one year, or two or five, that you will not miss your loved one or feel the pain of his/her absence? I don’t think so.

Grief is never totally dissolved. Don’t expect to wake up one morning and feel like you did before your loss. That is not possible, for you are changed forever (and not necessarily in a bad way). What time does is give you more perspective. I have found that it also does dissolve the actual physical hurt that you feel inside. It gives you the option of deciding when you will feel your grief and when you can compartmentalize it -- that is, put it away for a while and deal with the present.

Try to keep in mind that it is what you do to help yourself during the passage of time that determines the pace of your grief journey.

Ellen Gerst is a Life Coach specializing in grief and relationships and the author of several books on grief, including "A Practical Guide to Widow/erhood," born out of Ellen's own experiences as a young widow; 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, an easy-to read reference guide filled with suggestions for every day use on moving through the grief journey; and "Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story." "Love After Loss" is a blueprint on how to use her successful method to redesign your life to include a new love connection after the loss of a partner. Connect with Ellen on Facebook at Love After Loss (for daily relationship tips) and on Thin Threads of Grief & Renewal (for inspirational coping with grief thoughts). Click for more information on grief related services and books..

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Comment by BOMX Shannon on July 4, 2014 at 11:21pm

My heart goes out to everyone with a loss this Holiday. I worked today and walking out with fireworks on the Horizon, made it feel lonelier than anything. It just put a capital L on lonely. We look forward to the one that hurts less. They do come and prayer works, that I have found for sure!! Don't give up anyone, fight your hardest fight. We can live to fight another day and there will be a reason for doing this! The people left are here for a reason! Trust you have a reason! Love to all!

Comment by BOMX Shannon on July 4, 2014 at 12:43pm

A message to Dorcas Cummings. I am so sorry to have missed your posts, and everyone else...I got lost in life and grief I think. This has been a very hard road, I am NOT out of it by far, I am in the depression and acceptance I think. I go back and forth, crying, okay and think of our happy times, but not HAPPY if you know what I mean. I feel I exist through each day and that’s all I am giving it right now. I need a life again I think. I pray you are doing better, tell me where you are in your journey.

Comment by BOMX Shannon on July 4, 2014 at 12:34pm

Soon I will be a Widow for 3 years. I cry less. When I lost him, someone said “one day you will remember the good times and smile”, I was horrified. Recently, I was in a depression for 3 days, I searched online for answers and read - you can choose to be a victim, I started “remembering” some funny moments. I knew the stages of grief, then I found they exist out of order, come and go. I miss him and realize I always will…all my life. Now it's a different life. I was lucky to be with a good Man that was a great life. This is a slow journey through grief; do NOT let anyone tell you to rush it. Then put it in the prettiest box and ribbon you can imagine; put it in your heart visually. At this point in my life, I have many boxes. This box just hurt the most to place.

Comment by Dorcas Cummings on July 3, 2014 at 9:54am

I just sent you a friend request. I just read your post and I was encouraged by it. It will be 5 years tomorrow July 4th 2009 since my husband passed. Today is July 3rd and I cried this morning, thinking about the memories of him. The pain is still there but not as intense. Like you said you truly never stop grieving. I believe remembering the memories of that person helps and not being afraid to talk about your loved one. I believe in taking one day at a time does help also. Thanks for your encouraging words.

Comment by BOMX Shannon on December 1, 2012 at 1:36pm

I am having a tough day, one year ago today 12-01-11 I lost my beloved husband to an addiction. I found him hanging in our bedroom closet from AEA on 11-25-11, he survived 6 days after I cut him down and did the chest compressions. It was the hardest thing ever. I miss him and wish I could have helped him, but alas I know I could not. It was not my place, it was his, it is a very well hidden disease! The Police that came that day said "talk about it to everyone, there is one death a day in the U.S. from this addiction. My Grand-daughter told me "they do this on the school bus", it is the new HIGH and mostly younger kids are doing it. I won't go into the addiction, Dr. Phil did a special, I have learned tons from the internet. It is an awful hidden addiction - do not be afraid to talk to your kids, your grand-kids, any kids - the word has to get out, this addiction can kill you in 3 to 5 minutes. One kid told me he "choke hold'ed his brother and he passed out" - guess what? This is doing the same thing. We have to talk and TALK LOUD. If my husband died for nothing, it would be harder to bear!!

Comment by Gaynell Leath on September 13, 2010 at 6:47pm
Today September-13- 2004 I lost my youngest son Jason he was 19 years.On Janruary 11 1999 I lost my oldest son he was also 19.Losing both of my parents in between my sons.It is very hard to walk through the last days.I hold them close to my heart at all times.They were my loves my life.God Bless All Of You.This pain is like no other.I know I have something I have to do here or I would not be here.I always remember Always Blessings Never Losses.I feel we were so blessed to have them as long as each one of us did.This is the first time I am opening up myself to others.I have held this in way to long~~~~ A Mother Missing her son~Gaynell
Comment by Nancy Medley Therrell on July 19, 2010 at 8:06am
I lost my beloved husband suddenly to lung cancer Feb 28, 2010. It was a shock to me and I know to him. He was hospitalized on a Monday after finding out and died the following Sunday, six days later. I'm still some days in disbelief over it. Some days I'm fine and other days I wake up and go to bed so sad and lonely I can hardly bare it anymore. I pray God will help me get through this somehow.

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