There are certain dates that we remember; birthdays, Christmas, wedding anniversaries, and maybe even your first date. Those are happy occasions filled with joy and celebration. Surprise parties are planned and given . We are surrounded by our friends and family. Or maybe we have a romantic evening for two or a weekend get away. These occasions are making memories.
There are other dates that we remember too; the day we lost a loved one, their birthday, and your wedding anniversary. These anniversaries bring up feelings of sadness, longing, and pain.
Anniversaries such as these can be extremely difficult. In fact there is a name for this difficult time, Anniversary Reaction. It is defined as feelings of grief around the time of the anniversary of a loved one’s death or other special days such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries and holidays.
Richard will be gone thirteen years on August the third. He passed in 2005. His birthday is on August the twenty fifth and our wedding anniversary is September twenty fifth. (We would have been married thirty one years this year.) All of these anniversaries happen within a two month time frame.
It is a difficult time of year. Even more so when you add in the birthdays and deaths of other family members I have lost that occur from August through December.
The fall has always been my favorite time of year. I love everything about the fall. The rich autumn colors, the wonderful spiced smells and flavors. But it has became bitter sweet. My mothers and oldest brothers birthday are in October. The middle brother died in October of 2006. (Mom passed in May of 2007.)
November is a time to be grateful. It is the beginning of the season where families gather to celebrate. It is also a season of pain and loneliness, it is very difficult time when you are dealing with loss. In November 2001 my oldest brother passed away.
November quickly gives way to December. Christmas is upon us with good cheer, joy and peace on earth. It is a time of celebration and giving. It is also the month of my fathers birth and death in 2009.
During this time of anniversary reaction you will feel intense emotions and reactions such as:
- Crying spells
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping
These feelings are normal. Even if it has been a long time since the loss, you can still experience grief. These feelings are not a setback. In fact it is a reflection of your feelings for your loved ones. You don’t stop loving a person when they die. And you don’t stop missing them.
How to cope with anniversary reaction.
- Be prepared. During this time be mindful that your emotions are tender and you should not take offense to other peoples behaviors. I am an introvert and need time for myself. If at possible, I try to take time off from work during the anniversary of Richards death.
- Reminisce about your loved ones. I find myself talking about my husband more this time of year. I post more pictures and stories about him on Facebook. It is only natural to want to share stories and memories about your loved ones. However, a word of caution, make sure you reminisce with people in your support systwm. Not everyone will understand your feelings.
- Start a new tradition. Do something that honors your loved one. Plant a remembrance garden or a tree. Give to charity in their memory. Be creative.
- Connect with someone. Other people who had a relationship with your loved one would enjoy your reaching out to them. If you prefer, reach out to your support system, church group or friends.
- Allow yourself to feel the range of emotions. Do not suppress your feelings. Be gentle with yourself and practice self care. Remember it is okay to feel this way.
Finally, anniversary reaction can last for several days. If it draws out longer and is intense, or you are having suicidal thoughts seek professional help immediately.
As always I welcome your feedback and questions. You can leave them in the comments below. If you like what you read let me know with a thumbs up.
Remember that you are not alone, I am here to walk along side of you.
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“The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross