The First Anniversary of Loss

Here it comes, the dreaded anniversary.

You may be wondering, “How will I deal with it? If the stress today is this bad, how horrible will I feel on the actual date?”

As the first anniversary looms closer on the calendar, you may find yourself visiting the past, reliving the days of your loss, the deep sadness, and maybe remembering the shock of your loved one’s passing. We know the day is getting nearer, and it is the anticipation of special days that cause our mind to go back. Fortunately, many feel the anticipation of the date is worse than the actual date itself.

The first year after a loss is so difficult because it is a year of firsts. The first Christmas, New Year, Birthday (yours and their’s), Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day… each of these special dates brings the pain and the anguish of living without your loved one. It is not unusual to relive the intense emotions that you experienced when your loss was new. Getting through the first year is hard.

Nobody really can know what is in store for them in their grief journey. It is different for each of us. But after making it through The Year of Firsts, we begin to see and know we will survive. We made it through the funeral or memorial service, read and responded to all the thank you notes, took the flood of calls that are each in their own way so hard to bear. Then the quiet time settles in; when the calls and the notes stop coming, the visits from well-wishers are fewer and farther between. We have faced some of the difficult milestones – isn’t this enough?

Unfortunately, grieving does not “turn off” after one year. Time does not erase the past but it does provide an opportunity to think about our loved one, process our loss, and find meaning. Anniversaries and reminders, although painful at first, do become easier. These important dates give us a perfect chance to remember the happy things, the things that made our loved one special, and bring opportunities to build memorial traditions.

There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance…

(Ecc 3:1)