Handling Difficult Anniversaries After a DeathDecember 15, 2018
After the loss of a loved one, feelings of loss can reemerge on the anniversary of your loved one’s death or other special days throughout the year, such as birthdays, holidays, or wedding anniversaries. These feelings of grief, known as an anniversary reaction, can return again and again — sometimes even years later.
An anniversary reaction may seem like a setback but these recurring feelings of loss are a normal part of the grieving process — it means that your loved one was important to you. But how do you handle these difficult anniversaries?
“The most important thing is to tell stories to keep your loved one’s memory alive,” said Co-President John Keohane. “The first anniversaries will be the most difficult, but it’s necessary to work through the grief in the comfort and support of family members and friends.”
It’s helpful to be prepared for a variety of emotions when experiencing an important anniversary. According to the staff at the Mayo Clinic, “During an anniversary reaction you might experience the intense emotions and reactions that you first experienced when you lost your loved one. Anniversary reactions can also evoke powerful memories of the feelings and events surrounding your loved one’s death.”
Allow yourself to experience the grief, but also be open to joy and connection with others. It’s OK to laugh as well as cry! Focus on the good times you had with your loved one at special times of the year instead of the loss. Stay connected with your family, friends and other support systems, such as bereavement support groups, religious communities and other social groups.
Coping with the Holidays
Memories of special holiday traditions with your loved one as well as the general hustle and bustle of the time of year can intensify feelings of loneliness, fatigue and sadness. It is often helpful to spend some time with others who are also grieving and experiencing ambivalent emotions around the holidays.
With that in mind, Keohane Funeral Home started the Annual Candlelight Memorial Service for families to remember loved ones who will be missed during the holiday season. The Second Annual Candlelight Memorial Service was held at the Neighborhood Club of Quincy on December 5. The non-denominational memorial service included lovely music and a moving ceremony. During the candle lighting ceremony, participants lit a candle in memory of a loved one.
“Those who attended the holiday memorial service really benefited from the experience,” said Joseph Reardon, Vice President for Community Development and Advance Planning. “So many of our families commented on how meaningful it was at such a difficult time.”
There’s no time limit on grief and anniversary reactions can be powerful. When an anniversary triggers your grief, remember that it is a normal reaction ant that the intensity of loss tends to lessen with time.