This is a guest blog via my sister, Grace Wulff. This will be included in the New Hope publication which is a non-profit that assists widows, widowers and their families as they travel the path of the new normal. Love these thoughts. Thanks Grace for letting me share here.
Anniversaries usually bring on positive feelings; parties, celebrations, memories. However, the anniversary of a death of a loved one is one of the more difficult parts of grieving.
It was three years after my husband, Andy died, and I thought I was doing pretty well. I had passed through many firsts, processed lots of emotions, faced my grief. But when the doorbell rang that day, and there stood the most cheerful florist, who thrust me a beautiful bouquet, and then said “This is your lucky day!”, I thought I was going to lose it. I honestly can’t remember how I responded but my thoughts were not charitable. I considered holding classes for florists on appropriate behaviour when they didn’t know what the occasion was.
Anniversaries trigger emotions. We remember. We relive those moments leading up to the death. For many of us, our minds easily drift to the redramatization of conversations, moments, and many details surrounding that time.
Most often, from my own experience, and many widows I have talked with, the days and even month leading up to the anniversary can cause anxiety and stress. This can be very confusing for those who are new to grief, for there is a misconception that once you get past the first year, things will be much easier. Often in the time leading up to that first anniversary, people feel worse than ever, and it is distressing for them. But it is very normal for this to happen.
This happened to me again this past week. As a family, we are remembering the tragic death of my young nephew last March. Last year, on that day, my husband and I had gone for a day trip to Kelowna, enjoying the beach and a local restaurant. I’ve thought back to that day, thinking about what a wonderful time we had, not knowing the drama that was unfolding for my brother’s family, or the tragic events that would also mark that day.
For some reason, we revisited this restaurant last week, and the feelings and tension of that day a year ago, all came flooding back. I felt guilty for having a “good time”. Our hearts and our minds are engaged in remembering, in reliving, and we long to take away the pain that my brother and his wife and remaining son have endured. We remember the good times with Chris, as surely as we remember those tragic moments of finding out that he was no longer with us.
While this type of anniversary can bring much emotion, it is also emotionally healing. These markers give us pause to remember, to be able to talk about our loved ones. Each family is different, but it helps to have a plan to mark the day. Although fifteen years has gone by since Andy died, I like to be in touch with my children on that day. In the past I have sent them a yellow rose, something significant in our family. Or perhaps it will be an e-mail or phone call.
When we still lived together, we would light a candle to remember. On that first anniversary we planned an outing to a game park – something their dad would have enjoyed, and a healthy distraction for our pain. It helped to have something to do, and just to be together.
My brother writes a blog almost every day, in memory of his son Chris. His words are eloquent and beautiful, and positive. It is a way of connecting, and we appreciate reading his words, probably more than he knows, for it also helps us to keep connected to Chris as well.
While anniversaries trigger many emotions, they are healthy signposts to stop and remember, to pause and give thanks for someone we loved. It is also a time to be gentle with ourselves. And if that florist shows up on your doorstep, hopefully he or she might say, “Someone remembered you today”, and “you are loved!”.