Grief Anniversaries: How to cope

Published: 7/12/2022

Birthdays, anniversaries, death anniversaries and holidays can be hard to navigate when the day arrives and often people don't know what to expect when it finally approaches. Will the day be one of love and remembrance? Will it be one of sadness and pain? Perhaps the feeling that holidays will never again feel the same?

Grief anniversaries can be difficult and knowing what to do, how to handle them and get through it is even more difficult. Read our tips to help navigate through the emotions attached to grief anniversaries and bring you the strength you feel might be missing in your journey.

The first one

The first anniversary a person experiences can feel overwhelming because they don't know what to expect. They might presume they will feel a certain way, but feel the opposite when the day arrives. These can leave heavy expectations on a person, especially when those expectations are not met. For example, a person might expect to feel deep sadness on the day but actually feel okay, which can lead to feelings of guilt. A person might expect to feel love and peaceful reflection having organised a special day, but feel the opposite and want to do nothing at all.

The first year is often the hardest anniversary of all and so it's good to remember this as you meander through the ups and downs the day might bring and avoid placing heavy expectations on yourself.

Grief doesn't have a timeline

Grief is not linear and depends on many contributing factors. How was your relationship at the time of their death? How did the person die?

A person who has lost someone in an unexpected, sudden or traumatic way might experience heavy grief longer and with more complex emotions associated with trauma.

A person who has lost a young child or lost a loved one to suicide will grieve at a deeper, more complex level again.

A person who had a rocky relationship with the deceased might struggle with their grief more as time goes by.

As we are all different, so too are the circumstances around a person's death which flows into how the grieving process will unfold.

There doesn't have to be a 'day'

If you don't want to recall a death anniversary because the memory of their death is too painful, that's ok. If you prefer instead to celebrate the joyful and nostalgic moments like their birthday or your wedding anniversary, that's a wonderful idea. None of what you decide bears any weight on how much or little you loved them.

Your journey of grief healing might benefit if you let go of the power that "that day" has and realise it's ok for it to be just another day. Taking this level of pressure off your shoulders might help you to feel better about it all. And you never know, maybe in another few years, the time is right to change all that, for remembering them is a good thing.

Other people's grief anniversaries

Grief doesn't just all of a sudden stop. So it's nice to remember other people's loved ones' grief anniversaries too, not just supporting them at the time of their loss.

To show you're thinking about them you could send a card, email, text, or send flowers to show them you haven't forgotten. Whether it's on their wedding anniversary, birthday, Mother's or Father's Day they will always appreciate it.

Honour them by honouring yourself

As the years go by, feelings about what you have lost might shift to who they were, what they taught you and what can you do to honour them. By honouring yourself you also honour them.

You can carry on living. You can learn from their lives. You can grow as a person. Sharing your growth and lessons with others helps honour them and allows their legacy to live on in an especially loving, peaceful and eternal way.

Death anniversary

If your loved one's death anniversary is approaching, try and remember that events in the past will continue to have a big impact on your life. Our brains are wired to store an infinite number of memories, so even if you feel you have moved on, it's likely that you will react in some form or another, to memories of your loved ones.

Let yourself feel open to what unfolds when a grief anniversary approaches. There is no right or wrong way when days like this knock on your door.  One year you might laugh and celebrate. One year you might cry and mourn. One year it might just be another day and another year you plan ahead for a special remembrance day.

 

"A great soul serves everyone all the time.

A great soul never dies.

It brings us together again and again."

Maya Angelou

 

Support is always available

Remember there are always people and organisations to support and walk alongside you as you grieve. No one should journey through their grief alone.

 

Beyond Blue provides Australians with information and support to improve their mental health. Call 1300 22 46 36 or visit beyondblue.org.au for more information.

Lifeline Australia provides Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support. Call 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au for more information.

GriefLine listens, cares and supports people experiencing loss and grief, at any stage in life. Call 1300 845... 8am to 8pm AEST, weekdays.

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men. Call 1300 78 99 78, 24 hours / 7 days a week.

Kids Helpline is a free 24/7, confidential and private counselling service Australia wide specifically for children and young people aged 5 to 25 years. Call 1800 55 1800.

Life Supports Counselling provides Australians with experienced counsellors & psychologists in their local area Australia-wide. Call 1300 735... .

By Kirsten Jakubenko      

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