Part II of the resource guide on how to navigate loss anniversaries.

First, did I say I’m sorry you need this? Even if you’re reading for a friend, it means someone is hurting. But that’s part of the gig, right? 

So I’m glad you’re here and accessing support. You are not alone.

Part I of the guide is here.  

Part II
 

Anniversary Reflection

Use significant dates to reflect on how your life has changed in the past year. I like to journal about how my perspective on the loss has changed over time. Often looking back I see how hard I was on myself the year prior and that gives me information on how I can be more compassionate with myself going forward.

Gratitude?

Gratitude can live beside grief. Give thanks for everything you’ve learned in the past year, everything that showed up in support of you, thanks that you had the resourcefulness and resilience to make it through any rough patches.

Consider making a list of things you’d like to give energy to in the next year — maybe a donation to a cause that’s meaningful to your loss, volunteering, offering your time/talent to a neighbor or friend who is struggling. Finding a way to give reminds us that we are not broken and we have lived-wisdom to share.

Valid Grief Emotions

Remember that “grief” encompasses many emotions, not just sadness. Anniversary time can bring up anger and irritability, loneliness and despair, jealousy and resentment, even relief and gratitude. Whatever you feel is valid.

Share the date

Even if your anniversary day activity doesn’t involve anyone else, it can be helpful (for you and others) if you share the coming date. No one else will have exactly the same relationship to the loss that you have, and we all have unreasonably full lives with a lot on our calendars. It’s not fair to expect others to remember.

Imagine how helpful it would be for someone who loves you to hear: “Hey, I want to let you know that this anniversary is coming up and I might be a little more {emotional/solitary/angry/quiet}. I’d like to honor the day in {this} way. It would help me if you could give me a little more {space/love/massage} in the next week.”

Clear, honest, vulnerable, straight-forward. Your person would be so grateful and you would get what you need! Granted, sometimes it’s hard to know what you need; when you do, just state it plain and simple.

And especially if you’re struggling with an anniversary, find at least one person who can lovingly support you — a therapist, friend, support group. Don’t try to go this alone, because you aren’t.

Ritual + Ceremony

In recent Western culture, we have moved away from ritual and ceremony, yet these have been a part of cultures for thousands of years, in particular around death. You can create something formal or simple, solitary or involve others, something tangible or invisible.

On the first anniversary of the due date, I had a formal ceremony that included Greg and my support sisters. It was full of symbol and poetry and lots of tears. We buried one of the last ultrasound pictures and planted a tree. Afterward, we all ate together and shared stories and laughter. Since then, I like to be outdoors and near water on my anniversaries. Nature and the elements are reassuring and grounding for me. I don’t plan much, though I know I’ll do some writing and have lots of quiet time. This is a day I want to be alone, at least at this point. 

Like with everything else around grief and loss, you are making this up as you go along. Responding to the signs and your needs. Listening to your heart. Maybe it’s five minutes in the morning to say a prayer and send it in the wind with your breath. Maybe you mail invitations and cook and recite a prepared tribute in front of friends and loved ones. It’s yours to choose and create.

Forgetting and Remembering

There’s no need to feel guilt if you miss or forget a grief anniversary. Life is crazy and we juggle more things than a wagon full of clowns. It doesn’t have to mean anything, either (like you’ve “moved on”, which isn’t a thing anyway).

Yes, your relationship to these dates will change over time. If there are important dates you want to remember, enter them as a reoccurring event in your calendar. If you miss a date, let remembering you missed it serve as a reminder to pause and have your moment of honoring right then and there.

Feel free to share your ideas, resources and thoughts below. Sharing helps both the giver and the receiver to feel less alone <3

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