Since time does not heal when it comes to grief, it is not surprising that the Grief Anniversary of a loved one’s death can be just as painful as the day they died. For me, this week marks the five year anniversary of my former fiancé’s death. Although we were no longer together when he passed away, I can honestly say that he was my one true love. The pain of his death has been soul-wrenching and gut-stomping. Time couldn’t possibly ever heal that wound. Why would I want it to?
The first day, the first week, the first month, the first year after his death was tough. Who am I kidding – every day, every week, every month and every year has been tough. But the 4th of every month became a recurring, in-your-face reminder that he was gone. So I decided that I had two choices about how I was going to handle it – bottle it all up inside and walk around pretending I was ok or face it head-on and let the emotions flow.
It wasn’t really even a decision for me. I automatically chose to drive myself into the grief at full throttle. I figured hitting it head on and wrestling it to the ground would give me some chance of coming out the other side. Ignoring it? Well that could lead to all kinds of problems and I certainly didn’t want to go there. I had seen others who never faced their grief and I didn’t want that anchor dragging me down for the rest of my life.
So on the 4th (and most other days), I spent the time crying until there were no tears. I shouted at the sky. I took long walks. I went through old pictures. I read old cards and love letters. I listened to “our” songs. I remembered the good and the bad. I called his Mom and we cried together, I had a Memorial Service for him with my children up on a hill overlooking the ocean and we released a balloon to the heavens. We cried and held each other. I JUST LET IT ALL OUT. Then I let it out some more until I felt empty. The emptiness didn’t lessen the sadness or the pain but it felt better than holding it inside.
I think I also forced myself to do this because those around me didn’t know what to do. Some avoided me. Others didn’t bring it up at all. After all he committed suicide and who wants to talk about “that” subject. If talking about grief is #1 taboo subject in America, who wants to talk about grief related to someone’s suicide? Probably taboo subject #2. On top of that we had broken-up so add taboo subject #3. Three topics that are tough if not impossible to discuss. So that’s pretty much what everyone did – try not to discuss it with me. In fact there was no discussion about any of it at all. Since I knew I needed to do something (rather than avoid it), I took matters into my own hands and began my own grief journey.
Don’t get me wrong, people asked if I was ok. But in reality they hoped I didn’t start to talk about “it” at all. What were they supposed to say if I did bring it up? At least you weren’t in a relationship anymore? Nope – probably not the right response. At least you weren’t there with him when he did “it”? Nope – definitely not the right response. Neither of those comments would have helped me face my broken heart. Ironically, talking about how I felt about his death would have helped me heal. I learned after becoming a Certified Grief Recovery Specialists® what I went through with friends and family was pretty typical. It’s how we have all been brought up. As a society, we need to break the cycle of how we address (or don’t address) grieving throughout many generations.
My recommendation is to do what is right for you on a Grief Anniversary. That could mean acknowledging it or not. Whatever you do is completely healthy. Remember your loved one. Be sad. Laugh. Cry. Watch their favorite movie. Eat their favorite food. Do what makes it right for you. Make sure you surround yourself with people that understand what you need – not what they think you should or shouldn’t be doing. Let the day come. Don’t avoid it.
So on this 5-Year Grief Anniversary, I want this weekend to be about him and the joy he brought to my life. The laughter. The great memories. The soul-embracing love. Pizza and margaritas. Hawaiian sunsets. Las Vegas fun. The U.S. Open in New York. Boat rides on Lake Anna. Crawling out a window to shovel snow on the deck. The “Aflac” duck commercials. John Wayne. The Beach Boys. I will look out on the hill overlooking the ocean. I will listen to one of “our” songs. I will share his favorite poem (and one of mine):
By John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
Please respect a Griever’s need for this day. We need it to remember. We need it to heal.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!