GRIEF SUPPORT | FIRSTS
Firsts: Coping with Anniversaries and Reminders
By Bereavement Support Network
There are many events that will remind you of the person who died. Some are more obvious, such as the day they died or their birthday, and others are more unpredictable, like a piece of music, a smell or a particular TV program. Anniversaries and reminders can lead to powerful memories and cause you to grieve all over again.
When someone we love dies, there are a number of “firsts” that we face. The obvious ones are anniversaries – of the date they died, their birthday, your wedding or civil partnership, your birthday, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day – the list is endless. Traditionally, the first year after losing a loved one is often framed in this way – a matter of “getting through all the firsts”. This implies that the end of the first year is so significant that subsequent years will be easier. We find that this concept negatively affects many of our bereaved who may be in the second (or subsequent) year of their grief, and so believe they “should be feeling better”. It makes them unnecessarily hard on themselves and more anxious.
There is no timetable for grief and there are no “shoulds” as everybody’s experience is uniquely personal. While some people do feel better after the first year, anniversaries, by definition, occur every year and so each one might often be a significant date for the bereaved. It is quite normal for an anniversary to trigger more intense emotions.
There are also “firsts” that we don’t anticipate and catch us by surprise: the first time we receive a card without our loved one’s name or write a card to family or friends signed just from us or to them minus one name; the first time we need to fill in a form and our choice is married/single; the first time we lay the table for a family dinner; the first time we revisit a favorite place or hear a piece of their favorite music. These are all normal reactions to situations we wished we weren’t in.
As well as these reminders, there will be significant events in future months and years where the loss of a loved one will be keenly felt: a daughter walking down the aisle without her father; babies being born; significant birthdays and anniversaries; graduations; going on vacation for the first time as well as situations such as suffering illness, family turmoil and other losses.
What Feels Right For You?
There is no right or wrong way to cope with these events – some people struggle in knowing what to do but, as we have said there are no “shoulds”. For some, it is preferable to simply get through the day quietly, in their own way, for others it is important to significantly mark the day either alone or surrounded by people who knew their loved one. Others may be dreading a particular day or event and it can be useful to plan ahead. It’s also ok to simply go with the way you feel on the day. The most important thing is to do what feels right for you.
Link to the full article at Bereavement Support Network