Anniversaries of Grief

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.

6 Responses to “Anniversaries of Grief”

  1. charmaine gordon Says:

    Pat, I’ve experienced your pain for years now especially as the anniversary nears. My loved one is never truly gone. I feel his presence all the time as I move through my life day by day taking one step and another. And yes, I’ve begun a new career and new beginnings without him but he’s still in my heart and mind. My love and thoughts reach out to you.
    Charmaine Gordon

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Charmaine. It stuns me to realize how many people have dealt with and continue to deal with such grievous losses. Until his death, I had no idea such pain existed. Nor did I know that such pain existed beneath the smiles of strangers. It’s like slipping into an alternative universe, and the only thing good about it is the people one meets.

  2. Wenswritings Says:

    I know exactly what you mean with the pain of the anniversary. The days leading up to it are almost as bad as the day itself. I am so sorry for your huge loss.

  3. Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective Says:

    Having just experienced an anniversary of grief, I could relate to what you have to say. There’s a lot of insight in your words. I found myself nodding and contemplatively re-reading your entry. Hugs to you. Thank you for sharing your life.

  4. sandy Says:

    My mom used to go into a deep depression from July 4th (the anniversary of my brother’s birth) until August 22nd (the anniversary of his death 19 years later). I don’t remember feeling differently during those anniversaries than any other day and I dreamed about him every night for two years and continued to write letters to him (we started our correspondence when I left home for college and later married and lived back east, god I’m grateful that he visited and met my baby daughter even tho she has no memory of that) . . . I kept my letters to him along with his old letters to me, his poems and photos of his sculptures. I dedicated all my writing to him and eventually met some of his friends who contacted me when they read his name on the dedication page of my first novel (“are you? . . . .”). He had many friends who credited him with inspiring their subsequent paths in life and it gave me comfort to hear him praised. Our mom put it well, time does NOT heal the loss but over time it does get DIFFERENT. Later I learned that some emotions really can settle into different parts of the body and grief settles into the lungs. I don’t know the science behind it but I did get walking pneumonia every year for a long time. BE CAREFUL to take care of yourself during these times. And everyone I know who has lost a husband tells me the same thing, they continue to talk to their husbands, to feel their spirit presence and they tell me this helps. I know it helped me to live with the loss of my brother who I helped raise and was more like my first child. Grief is not something that can be denied but it can be redirected, contained, so it doesn’t destroy you.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’ve had a bad cough for the past few weeks. Being sick forces me to think of myself, so that’s why I’ve been in a grief hiatus. Or maybe this has just been a different way of grieving. I’ve learned during the past two years that just about all the grief literature gets it wrong. Luckily, I knew from the beginning to trust my grief.

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