An understanding of anniversary reactions is especially important for grievers who have suffered their loss a year or more ago. Even if we are not consciously aware of our emotions, our psychological clock will be extremely accurate. Significant days or events from the past will stir feelings which we may act out. For example, I worked with woman who every Spring found herself overwhelmed by uncontrollable bouts of crying. Her ability to concentrate at work suffered, and she became unproductive. Instead of going to work, she went to bars and randomly hooked up with men. After analyzing her reactions, we traced back her disorganization to the pain of her boyfriend's death at age 21. When she was able to express her feelings and recapture the intense pain she felt, she no longer needed to act out so much. Her anniversary reaction moderated to the point where she now has strong desires to blow off work, drink, and pick up men in the Spring, but she instead experiences her anger, sadness and other emotions. Thus she has a hard time, but she weathers the storm with no serious damage.

Anniversary reactions may take strange twists for even those who are aware. Another person who had moderated his reactions through expression and examination, had thought that the birthday of his dead brother would be no problem. The day passed with no special feelings, but then the day after he got a severe headache, which remained for several days until he figured out that he did in fact need to feel sad and had tried to avoid experiencing intense emotions. He had convinced himself that he was over anniversary reactions and in this way he used his knowledge defensively.

People who are grieving prior to the anniversary of their loved one's death or birthday or other significant occurrence, may have experienced a special time such as Christmas/Hannukah or Mother's Day without their relative. This may prove to evoke similar reactions as anniversaries.

It is normal to experience a wide range of feelings around any anniversary or special event such as Christmas/Hannukah. Often people become reflective, withdrawn, sad, irritated, or disorganized. Work or school performance may suffer for a short time, or even become unmanageable. But if the effort to ward off painful feelings is too successful, then the anniversary reaction may trigger excessive behaviors. Increased drinking, law-breaking, inability to concentrate, to work, or to focus one's efforts, serious withdrawal or regression or fragmentation, may be an indication of unprocessed grief. Another question is raised by the length of the reaction. Strong feelings for a short period before, during and/or after an anniversary are usual, but long periods connected to reactions are another symptom to watch for.

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Comment by white dove on April 1, 2010 at 7:31pm
Dear Denise, I just wanted to tell u about a couple things i have done for Holidays (of course you will think of your own), but for my moms Birthday i still got her a card.. and a helium balloon. I wrote a note to her and attached it to the balloon and let it soar. And it really truly did go right up into the clouds. I felt as if my mom was there and she snatched it up:) I planted a tree in her memory at a legacy park. My daughter and i go there often. We have a picnic, say prayers, and i talk to my mom. Ive put ornaments on her tree for the Holidays.. ones that are close to our hearts. I also bought one of those ground lights that are like night lights and put it next to her tree (she always had one on), And of course i cry.. but do feel a release afterwards.. I will plant flowers this year in my moms favorite color.. and i have pictures of her all over during good times with her smiling. I personally dont feel i should stop our traditions - not just yet. And it's been a year now as of 3-30. These things and others help me to feel that she is still part of our lives. It's a very tough hard road for us. Blessings and prayers for you during this Easter time.
Comment by Denise Camilli on April 1, 2010 at 6:37pm
Our 8 year daughter passed away in January and with Easter upon us I just dont know how to handle the holiday. I keep thinking of the traditions that we had with her, but know there is no reason now to do them. I know we should do something since we do have a son and I dont want this to effect him anymore than this already has. I miss her so much that many days I dont know how I will go on. If I am already struggling to get through daily life, what am I going to do on the holidays .
Comment by francesca anna sack on March 30, 2010 at 11:16am
My little Westie dog,was my best friend in this lonely life of mine.She is niw gone and I feel isolated,but I feel the need to be so ,so that I can grieve compleatly for her.I somehow feel that if I do this I will at some point get better .She was one in a millon,always there for me.Iused to tell her everything I was feeling .and I know she understood.she would sleep with me ,follow me around,even worry about me.She was more like a doughter to me than anything else.I grieve for her every day,and I know it may sound crazy but,I too wait for the day when I will pass over to the other side to be with her again. I love her more than life itself.
Comment by delores harris on March 29, 2010 at 1:18pm
Comment by Shyann on March 29, 2010 at 11:40am
Hello, to all of u, I'm sorry for your loss. I am in the same boat as you. It is comforting to know I am not alone in this situation. My ex-husband was
murdered March 29, 2009. The first anniversary if his death is this week.
I know I will cry, I am still in some shock and grief. What is a double wammy is on the night he was murdered, I met someone new and we started dating for the past 2 years. So it is 2 anniversaries coming up.
A couple weeks ago, we broke up now I won't have to pretend to
be all happy. He never supported me emotionally anyways. So,.. I will make
a point of lighting a candle for my ex. We were together a decade....and I will talk to him, and send a prayer to God to give us both peace. TY Much.
Comment by David Fireman on March 29, 2010 at 10:56am
Colleen: There are a good many ways to get through difficult periods of time. First, it's important to have a mindset that you are not helpless. Once you get firmly established that you can do some things to make life more bearable, then you can get busy and implement some of the following suggestions. Express feelings as they come. It's not only okay to grieve, but it's important to grieve. Grief is a process that may be painful, but it has healing qualities. So tolerate difficult emotions and express them to yourself and others. Anger, sadness, frustration, loneliness, vulnerability, helplessness, emptiness and others may all be present. The grieving process can be very painful because of the intensity and range of feelings that arise. It is healthier to let them be and not try to sweep them under the rug. But it's not okay to express these feelings in a way that harms yourself or others. It isn't the feelings themselves that can cause damage; it's what we do with them or how we express them that needs to be monitored. So be aware of any burdens you put on others. You can't ask people to go beyond what they can tolerate. There's no point in being bitter if they simply can't keep listening and absorbing your grief. Ask from them only what they can give. Another way to help yourself through this time is to honor the memory of your loved one. Acknowledge their importance to you and make up ceremonies that express that awareness. Through thoughts, feelings, traditions, and ceremonies you can express some of the grief that you feel and gain some comfort. Rituals may be easier for some of your friends to share, so make use of them. Or you may find some comfort in developing new traditions that honor the memory of your loved one. A contribution to charity, a day of volunteering in honor of your memories, or a visit to the grave may have some use to you. Planning activities and ways to stay busy or to keep from being too busy, can give you the right mixture of activity and freedom from unnecessary stress. You can review your own needs and decide how to plan. If you can't stand the idea of being alone, you could plan activities with others. If you find being alone valuable during this time, then you could reconsider and cancel some get-togethers you may have already planned. Find ways to soothe yourself. When under stress, we need to be willing to indulge ourselves sometimes. We each have differing ways to calm our troubles souls. Thin about what you have historically done to take care of yourself. Go ahead and give in to some soothing activites as long as they aren't destructive to self or others. Remember to individualize all the advice you get. That is, there really are no correct formulas for managing in difficult times. Look at the ways you function as an individual and tailor all of the friendly and professional advice so that it fits your situation and your needs. Don't sacrifice your uniquness to a formula or to what someone else claims to be the "right" way.
Comment by Colleen Watkins on March 29, 2010 at 10:39am
our anniversarie is on sat the 3rd of april ,and it is 34 years and i miss him so,he has been gone since dec,09 and i do not know how to act and then on sunday it is easter which we always had the family at our house for dinner,what do i do?
Comment by white dove on March 29, 2010 at 10:12am
this article is right on time for me and my daughter... tomorrow is our one year after my mom's passing. We were just disgussing what we will do.. we didnt fare well on her Birthday.. we started out good, in visiting her Memorial tree but then, went way off base and drank alcohol for hours! Not a good thing. So we vow to not do that again. Thank u once again for this reminder.
Comment by Barbara McQuillen on March 28, 2010 at 12:25am
Hi my husband of 47years past away on 9/10/09. It is very hard. I'm so lost without him. I have children and grandchildren but they all have their own lives. I have Precious my dog but she does not talk to me. I just would love to hear his voice. Thank you for this site. It's helpful to hear that others feel as I do. Thank you.

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