Solace on the anniversary of your mate's death

Q. On the second anniversary of my husband’s death, I received an e-mail from one of his former business associates. The message consisted of two lines: “I still miss him. Hope you are well.” This person is the only one who remembered the date and reached out to me. I heard from him at this time last year, too, and appreciate the gesture so much. Why don’t others remember, especially close friends and family?

The anniversary of your spouse’s death is a hard time to bear, although I personally find it does get easier as the years roll by.  Other people rarely mark the date for a variety of reasons.  They’re busy with their own lives and have other things on their minds.  They don’t feel the same day-to-day impact of the loss the way you do.  Some also don’t want to be reminded of death.  Or they fear reminding you of the sadness and causing you pain--as if you could ever forget the day your life changed forever.  In our culture, people often tiptoe around the entire issue of death, and don’t realize there is solace in knowing others remember, too. 

You might want to consider telling family members and friends about this e-mail and how much it meant to you.  They may respond with “Oh, I forgot” or “I knew it was somewhere around this time” or “I didn’t mention it because it might upset you.”  You can explain that, in fact, acknowledgments of the date make you feel less alone.  Suddenly you’re having a heart-to-heart talk that brings you closer together.  Maybe they’ll mark the date on the calendar to call or e-mail next year.  A part of you may feel, “I shouldn’t have to tell them.”  But yes you do, if it bothers you.  People mean well, but they can’t read your mind.

I also ask my sons or my sister or a close friend to have dinner with me on the anniversary.  They’ve forgotten it’s “that date,” but are happy to join me to raise a glass to my husband.  And reminiscing doesn’t consume the entire evening.  Conversation invariably reverts to the normal “catching up” on our lives.  By the time we leave, we feel we’ve had a meaningful, enriching experience.  And I’m ready to move on.

If you have a question for Florence, please email her at


Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author—and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion


Image: Flickr Creative Commons / DafneCholet

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