Grief is a tricky, unpredictable ride. Recovering from the loss of a loved one is a complicated process. It runs its own course on its own timetable. Eventually, the bereaved find ways to move forward. They carry the sorrow in their heart but the intensity of the mourning subsides. Until… the anniversary of the loss rolls around.
It’s a date that is seared into your memory that will come around — year after year. The effect may, at first, be unconscious. Eventually, you connect the time of year to your sudden emotional volatility. It can help to identify the connection. But now what?
Anniversary grief is not limited to the precise anniversary. Its impact may begin in a vague way as the date approaches. The feelings of loss, loneliness, and sadness are some of the more obvious signs. In addition, you may experience any of the following:
- Fatigue and sleep disturbances
- Changes in your appetite
- Irritability and restlessness
- Bursts of anger
- Loss of concentration
- Fixation on unhappy memories
Any or all of the above can be triggered by outside sources — even years after the loss. For example, certain foods, scents, music, or objects may be the catalyst. Sometimes, you have to live through the first anniversary to fully appreciate the reality of recurring bereavement. But fortunately, there are self-help steps you can make to anticipate the return to mourning.
5 Tips for Coping When Grief Repeats
1. If Possible, Prepare in Advance
Grief is always painful but can be eased when you’ve had time to prepare. As the date nears, remind yourself of the need for self-care and introspection. Honor the grief. It’s a powerful blend of emotions that helps us manage a loss.
2. Create Traditions and Rituals
- Cook a specific meal
- Engage in an activity that your loved one enjoyed or valued
- Visit the gravesite
- Do something in line with your faith and/or the faith of the deceased
- Watch their favorite movie
- Listen to their favorite music
- Connect with someone who knew and loved the deceased
As you can see, the possibilities are limitless. The idea is to take part in activities and/or sensations that you feel will honor the person you lost. It can be incredibly helpful and healing to involve others in this process.
3. Schedule Time to Remember and Honor
Your life circumstances may not allow you to do anything elaborate. If so, you must still find time to set aside for the sole purpose of mourning and remembering. Do not let life’s hectic flow take you away from what is important. Take a day off from work, if possible.
4. Make It About You
There are no hard and fast rules here. Perhaps it feels most healing to center the day around yourself. Change up your routines. Treat yourself to a special meal or maybe a massage. Challenge yourself to try something new and adventurous. As you indulge in such behavior, remain aware of how happy your loved one would be to see you doing so. Feel how proud they are of you.
5. Be Kind of Yourself
Perhaps what you need most is self-care. You endured a loss, life went on, and here you are reminded of it one year later. Do what you need to do to soothe yourself and recover. If you need to talk, reach out to someone.
If you feel overwhelmed by the anniversary grief, reach out to a therapist. You never have to struggle alone. We’re happy to help and guide you through these challenges. Please contact us and read more about grief counseling. We look forward to hearing from you soon to set up a safe and confidential consultation.