I thought I’d compile a brief note on how to deal with grief anniversaries and dates of significance that are difficult.
I mark a few different grief anniversaries, and a few difficult dates. These are made up of a few things. Firstly, in February there’s the date of my hospital admission at the beginning of my miscarriage – which I mark as a ‘death date’, though truly, my child died in the womb some weeks before I began bleeding.
Much later in the year I mark my child’s ‘birthday’ – her expected due date was the end of August, as plotted by my GP. This is a more celebratory time, and less overlaid with painful memories of invasive medical procedures and trauma. This is a day when I allow myself to remember the exciting flutter of being pregnant, and give myself hope for that to happen again – one day.
And in early December I mark two years since I left my husband and moved to Sydney. Now I’m officially divorced, hurrah! This day is a sort of celebration of freedom and all the wonderful things that have flowered in my life since leaving, with a residual amount of sadness at having lost a good friend in the process.
I think anniversaries are a good opportunity to weigh our lives, reflect and think on where we’ve come from and what we’ve gained. It is also simply a good chance to pay respect to important people and processes that have changed us.
Marking that somehow can seem difficult.
I feel it is important to divest yourself of the notion that all ritual is meaningless and pointless. As a born cynic, I’ve really struggled with this. I found it hard to allow myself rituals, because my break from fundamentalist Christianity as a youth really built a harsh view of such things into my psyche. But I’ve recently been allowing myself rites that I self-construct, around which I build meaning.
Rituals help us to cope, and help us to look at our feelings about death, and the natural decay and pain that life brings. Hooray for those that don’t need such things, but I cope better by doing, not just thinking with no marker.
On August’s birthday this year, I plan to take a couple of friends I trust and climb the hill in Sydney Park, and from there, fly a kite with her name attached to the tail.
Last year, I took time out and looked through her things which I keep in a box in my room, I wrote a letter (unsent) to my ex husband, I blogged, and I wore the special necklace my friend Cassie bought me with ‘August’ engraved on it.
To mark the anniversary of the end of my marriage, I’ll probably go for a walk alone, and bury the few remaining special tokens I have from my husband. I have a friendship ring he gave me for our first Valentine’s Day, and the aventurine stone I gave him on our first date to ‘guard his heart’. I no longer need these things. I may bury them with salt, water, and bread to send them away from me in peace. I’m not spiritually inclined; this too is a reference to burial taken from a favourite novel, which he gave me as a gift.
In the end, the most important thing is that you mark anniversaries in a way that feels comfortable and true for you. If being alone brings you comfort, do that. If being surrounded by friends does, do that.
And most of all, remember that what applies in the blogosphere applies with grief – don’t read the comments. People will give you loads of flower advice and platitudes, but remember you are allowed to ignore all of it. It is sweet that people want to help, but these are often intensely private experiences that are hard to vocalise properly in a facebook thread. If you want to try, awesome. But silence is fine too.
As long as what you’re doing helps you and doesn’t harm you, do it.