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Q. Why don’t people remember the anniversary of my husband’s death? Even my husband’s sister and brother don’t seem to be aware of it or mark it in any way. It bothers me that he’s forgotten. What are your thoughts?
My "take" is that this is a very private anniversary — and when others forget the date it does not mean they are forgetting your husband — or you. Sometimes people think mentioning the subject would remind you of the death. They don’t realize that (1) we know. And (2) it comforts us when they remember.
The omission also does not mean that people who were close to your husband don’t think about him at times throughout the year, especially when certain situations stir their memories. It might be seeing a movie and thinking, "Bill would have loved this film. He was such a Woody Allen fan." Or, "If Frank were only here, I could ask his advice on whether to sell the business. He was great at getting me focused when I had to make an important decision."
People who haven't been through it also don't understand the impact of the anniversary on you, particularly if you've made the transition to a new and meaningful life. It's really up to you to tell them, "It would mean a lot to me if people acknowledged the day. That day is still hard for me."
If you have friends who are widows, too, you might discuss your feelings with them and ask about their experiences, which may give you new insight. Maybe they'll volunteer to put the date on their calendar and check in with you next year at this time.
In your place, I would also ask myself, "What can I do to make myself feel better that day?" Would it be a good time to visit his grave (or not), or pick up the phone and call friends to talk over old times and memories that make you smile. One woman, who has been widowed twice, calls or emails her children on the anniversary of her first husband's death to say something like, "Just thinking about our family today. Love you, Mom." On the anniversary of her second husband’s death, she writes something to his children, such as, "Remember those drives to the beach with Dad, and all the laughs we had? Thinking of you." It enriches her – and them.
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at email@example.com.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist,author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill,What Do You Say When and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.