How to get through those hard anniversaries… that horrible first year I called them the “fierce-some firsts”:
- First Valentine’s Day.
- First Thanksgiving.
- First Christmas.
- First birthday (his).
- My birthday
- First birthday (the children’s).
- First “day we met”.
- First wedding anniversary.
- First angle-versary (anniversary of death).
During that first year, as these “firsts” approached, I’d count down the days and get very sad. I was in a pretty big fog back then, and still feeling lots of pain.
It’s been almost seven years now. It’s interesting to look back and see how differently I’ve experienced each successive year.
In hindsight, I’d say the second year was the hardest. The huge fog of the first year was starting to lift then, and therefore the pain was much sharper. With each successive year, those sharp edges have gotten a little softer.
Here’s what I did from the very beginning. I would decide ahead of time what I could do and could not do on “firsts”. Some of the things I’ve done to help myself include:
- Spend time with friends (go out to dinner, dinner at their house, just sit with them and cry).
- Go away (by myself or with someone) to get away from the memories of being in the HOUSE we shared.
- Participate in an activity (doing things with children always helps me temporarily forget my own troubles). Maybe yours is animals, hiking, cooking, or working with wood.
Another option was to decide to stay home and just feel sad (and even sorry for myself). You might think this is unusual advice from a coach. However, I do believe in having people acknowledge their true feelings. Sometimes, it can be healthy and helpful to sit with your honest emotions for a specific amount of time. Because if you try to stop all your feelings all the time, they can become bigger and maybe even out of control.
I will emphasize that it’s important to establish a specific amount of time. This can be as little as five minutes or as long as an entire day. So make an agreement with yourself ahead of time about the length of time you’ll be spending in the funk. It’s helpful if you tell someone else (an accountability partner) what you’re doing and for how long. Then, just “go for it”. Rant, rave, cry, tear up a bunch of papers, punch a pillow, write (all your feelings, a letter to the person who died, a letter to yourself), read letters you wrote to each other, call a friend, read books, watch movies. Bottom line, you get to choose how to spend the time.
I’ve done all of these things over the past seven years. I believe it’s helped me a lot. It’s one of the reasons I feel so hopeful about my future.
No matter where you are in your journey, I hope these suggestions help with the “firsts” you’re navigating in your own life.