No date is etched as deeply on your heart as your beloved child’s anniversary date. It was the day that the world as you knew and understood it ceased to exist. Approaching the first year, some people honor it, some people run from it. It may change as time goes on as well. You will never be “over” the sorrow of your child’s passing, nor should you be. Missing and loving someone so intensely will not be removed due to a date on the calendar. Some may even feel more pain in year two because the initial numbness, which often serves as a protective barrier at the onset of loss has worn off, and they begin experiencing the full intensity of their feelings and grief. This is accompanied by the realization that life with loss is their “new normal.”
Friends and family may wonder if they should remember it too. They may be confused about what is appropriate. They may wonder if it would hurt us too much if they acknowledged the pain they once shared with us. Would we resent the tug back to that awful day — if they called or said something to hint that they recalled the significance of the day, as we continue to work on our journey. And how should they approach us?
Grieving in a healthy manner, taking steps to move forward and rebuild your life with a new normal doesn’t mean you won’t have those tough days or tough moments. There is no expiration date. Grief never fully goes away. That doesn’t have to mean you can’t and won’t live a happy and productive life. What it does mean is the love you shared with loved ones lost doesn’t have an expiration date either.
One of our SUDC grandparents wrote:
“You don’t move on, but you can move forward. The pain doesn’t go away, but the edges of the pain do get softer, and you can learn a new way of living that makes your loss a part of who you are. The early months were so painful that the loss seemed to define us. Now our grief has become like a shadow. The love and the loss and the grief are always there, though the pain is not as continually sharp as in the beginning. You will always have your special memories and your love for your grandchild, and nothing can take that away from you. We have learned that you can go from a place of not being able to imagine ever caring about anything again, to a place where life does matter again.”
Whatever you decide, being with a group of people who all loved your child, who share your loss, and who celebrate their life can be a wonderful way to remember them on that day. Try to find meaning in your grief.
Parents have told us that the first anniversary can often involve the following feelings, emotions, actions or suggestions:
Feelings that you are losing them all over again
Minute by minute you may look at the clock and detail the same events
Uncertain feelings around what to do that day such as having balloons, taking time away as a family to reflect and remember, plant a tree in your child’s memory, etc.
The grief is still so unpredictable, there are both good and bad days
Going forward can be associated with a fear of forgetting
Still feels like a bad dream you want to wake up from and see that they are there
The shock is starting to wear off and it seems so real now
Take time for yourself; sometimes the only way to grieve is to get away from all your responsibilities of caring for others so you can care for yourself
Most importantly, parents have reported to reflect on all that was done to survive.