The journey with grief and healing after loss includes dealing with anniversaries. This might be your loved one’s birthday, death day or any other specific meaningful day in relation to them. In fact, any thing meaningful is a reminder and may trigger reactions and responses – this is very normal.
Here are 10 things (and links to other resources) to help you think about, prepare and nurture yourself when approaching anniversaries and other meaningful dates.
1. Anniversary reactions are normal
Even years after the loss you may have emotional reactions to anniversaries. You might feel sad, angry, contemplative or any other emotions. Remembering them as being normal can help you understand and take them as healing opportunities.
2. Do whatever feels right for you
Take it in your hands, take responsibility to make the day meaningful / helpful / healing-ful for you. Healing is YOUR choice, remembering too.
There are many ideas and suggestions out there. Find some here on CarlyMarie’s site or here on What’s Your Grief’s site. Both of those sites have additional great resources and articles. Or you might search google and find many more ideas. Read up on ideas and make your choice.
If you have done something special please share it in the comments for others to read and benefit.
3. Manage your expectations of others
This might sound harsh but no one is required to remember your loved one. Thinking that others should/need to… will turn into disappointment. Everyone is doing the best they can, some remember but prefer not to talk about it and some don’t remember. In addition, they are not mind readers and therefore do not know whether you prefer to talk about your child or not. In general, society does keep quiet for ‘fear’ of the potential emotional reaction they might trigger.
4. Speak up
Say what you need. Involve those that are important to you. On the first birthday of my daughter I asked the family to bring something from nature, like a stone, feather etc. to remember Amya. We held a small circle and each person was invited to speak. This is what I needed and by letting people know, it happened. On the girls 2nd birthday, I made this. Just for myself – the way I wanted to honour Amya.
5. Be true to yourself
What you feel like doing or not do, is not necessarily what another mother or father chooses to do. Stay true to yourself. There is no guideline on what needs to happen on anniversaries.
Please remember guilt is reserved for a purposeful act intended to harm someone physically or emotionally. This is not the case if you don’t feel like doing something but think you should… Be gentle with yourself and – you’re doing it right by doing what feels right.
7. My partner does think about him/her
Generally speaking, more often women feel that their man does not think or remember the child’s birthday or anniversary. Even though it might be true that men more often forget special dates, be aware of what you imply: Have you asked him (or her)?
More often than not, men tend to internalise their processes and women externalise them. Having interviewed many bereaved parents, both fathers and mothers I do know that it is not true that they don’t remember. They do. They just have different ways to do it.
8. Let people know
As mentioned before, people do not know unless you tell them. Help people understand what it is you need by letting them know.
9. A word about self-expectations
Beside the expectation we have of others, we also consciously or unconsciously internalise what we have heard or read. Expecting yourself to be, react or experience different that you are leads to self imposed stress. Notice if that is what is happening. Let go. Allow yourself to be the way it is.
10. Any day can be a ‘remembrance’ day
Any day you have loaded with meaning can trigger beautiful or stressful memories. As in life in general, so in post-loss life. If you have too many days loaded with stressful triggers of grief, maybe it’s time to off-load them and re-load them with more helpful meaning. I will show you how in a future post. Stay tuned.
I understand where you’re coming from with number 3 but I want to add my 2 cents in. If you have close family and friends who are aware of how you spend the anniversaries and they don’t go out of their way to help make that day a little bit easier on you, you’re allowed to be disappointed. Yes, I expect that my daughter’s grandparents, aunts and uncles remember her. I’m not asking for a big donation in her name, but if you really care for me the very least you can do is send a quick text that reads something like “thinking of you you”. My family and friends (and everyone I have on social media) know that we talk about her and plan things to make the anniversaries special and a little bit easier. They may not be required to remember her, but if that’s the case, I’m not required to keep those kinds of people on my life.