I don’t know why certain anniversaries loom so large in our lives, but for whatever reason, the anniversaries of grief are immense. At the beginning of my grief over the death of my life mate/soul mate, a minister friend told me that always on the anniversary, even if I’m not consciously aware of the date, I will feel an upsurge of grief. This is only my second anniversary, with perhaps dozens still to come, but I can already see the truth of his words. Grief comes from somewhere deep within, somewhere deeper than thought, somewhere deeper than volition. And it keeps track of time.
People who have not experienced a grievous loss often think that grief is a choice. Sometimes, especially when young children are involved, the remaining parent can put off grief to focus on the childrens’ needs, but still, grief will surface at the anniversary. Later in life, this grief will surface again, perhaps when the last child leaves home, or when a beloved pet dies. I know a woman who went from taking care of a dying husband to taking care of her aged mother. She didn’t grieve after the death of her husband because of this new focus, but the death of her mother about destroyed her. For most of us, though, grief cannot be denied. We embrace it or it embraces us, and we reap the whirlwind.
This anniversary phenomena does mystify me, though. I’ve been experiencing a devastating grief upsurge, and yet nothing significant happens on the anniversary to count for all the sorrow. In fact, if last year is anything to go by, the day itself will be peaceful, bringing with it a quiet gladness that he was in my life. But the anniversary is not the end of anything. In fact, it is the beginning of something even worse — the beginning of another year without him. Another year where he is dead. Another year of trying to build a future on the ashes of our shared past.
The worst thing, of course, is that I’ve had two years of living in a world where he does not exist. The sheer goneness of him builds rather than dissipates. He is more gone now than he was two years ago, and next year he will be even more gone. Apparently, one can get used to anything, so eventually I’ll simply get used to the feeling of emptiness he left in the world, perhaps even learn to look beyond the blank space on Earth he once inhabited.
I hope, of course, I will be able to find a new life. Or do I mean a new focus? Because, of course, this is my life and always has been. It was my life before I met him, it was my life while we were together, and it is still my life, as alien as it feels. And as much as I hate that he is dead, as much as I fight the idea that I am still alive, the truth is that he is, and that I am.