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All Those Anniversaries One Year Later


Paul S

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Many of us who have grieved for around a year run into what I call "The Season of Anniversaries", those dates along the calendar that mark a date from the year before that's connected with the death. Most people usually regard it as a remembrance of pain and direct their attention to the past. This may be especially so if the death was not sudden. The health of the beloved declined, then she/he entered the hospital and at some point died. I had gotten the idea that one could instead use them as a benchmark. Like: "One year ago today, he/she had to go to the hospital. I was in a such and such mental place at the time, and now one year later this is where I'm at." Compare and contrast where you were with where you are now. People may be shocked at how far they've come. "THAT was just ONE YEAR ago????"

For example: I started to think about this last September 2006. I was raking leaves for a friend when it hit me that exactly one year ago the plumber had to come and fix the bathroom sink in my Mom's old house. As I am generally useless in such matters my brother-in-law tried to fix it but discovered it was beyond his ability. I paused and thought to myself, "Just one year ago, my biggest worry outside of my Mom's health was the bathroom plumbing. If I only knew what lay on the horizon..." And then I started thinking. Coming up in October was the 1st anniv of when Mom had to be taken to the ER (Oct 19th), placed in ICU (the 20th), transferred to her private room (the 27th), and then her death. (Nov 7th). It wouldn't end there. Her funeral on the 9th. The arrival of the dumpster in the front yard on the 14th to toss in it 59 years of parental memories (and some of mine that got mixed in, by "accident".). And then a few personal ones in December regarding my need to move out of her house and into a small apartment, and in January with our birthdays.

Just several months in a row of a good number of shocks and jolts from the year before. Now, it had occurred to me that these could be dangerous landmines that could rip me apart. Or I could use them in a different way. The way I mentioned up above, to use them as a benchmark to compare and contrast where I was one year ago and where I'm at today.

For each of the anniversaries it seems that the event was a lifetime ago. The memory of my Mom was still fresh, but the painful event seemed far more distant.

If somebody is a little proactive in moving forward then these dates can even be used as a fulcrum to swing themselves through grief a little more. A hump to jump over. It may help them to "move on but not leave behind" (as a lot of people fear they will do with their dead if they "get past it"). "One year ago this happened. I'm not going to focus on that, instead I'm going to focus on the year since. How far I've come and grown. How much stronger I am as person because I've learned some lessons and applied them."

Some helpful pointers if you want to move forward in grief. That is if your question "Does this ever end?" is a sincere one and you actually do want to to get through it.

1) Seek help. Then pay attention to that help. This means that you listen to those people who have gone before you in grieving their losses and have seemed to re-established a "new normal" in their lives, whether they be grief counselors or ordinary non-professionals. Avoid those who seem stuck in their grief. I do not mean those who are moving slowly. At least they're progressing. I mean those who seem to be today in the same place that they were in a year ago, or two years... People who are angry or just refuse to listen. Whose primary focus seems to be on themselves and not on others. Some people need to be cut loose as they need greater help than grief counseling and discussion forums can provide.

2) Distinguish between the pain of the loss and the identity of the deceased. The pain of the loss is not the person. The whole point behind griefwork is to leave the pain of the loss behind while retaining the memories and joys of the beloved. This allows you to establish a "new normal". A new ordinary life that lacks the physical presence of the beloved. A piece of your life's puzzle is gone and now you have rearranged the pieces to form a different, but recognizable picture, similar to the old. But the old pieces are not burned up, they're just in a safer place. To heal from the pain does not mean that the person is forgotten. To not recognize this may result in the pain beginning to overshadow the person, and that which you fear the most, forgetting the person, may actually happen. But only in a reverse way. You've kept the pain, but the memories of the person are obscured. The pain of the loss is substituted for the person.

3) Lean into the pain. Face the tough stuff associated with your grief, as best as you can. Whether it's visiting the cemetery, driving past the old house, looking at old photographs, or listening to their music, those things that are tinged with pain need to be faced and dealt with. Move into it as well as you can. Take a break when needed, just remember to return to the task.

4) Forgive. Even if you were on great terms with them no one is perfect and everyone ticks off everyone else. If they were mean and abusive, forgive them anyway. They are dead now and are no longer present to defend or explain themselves. If your faith tradition has a Heaven and a Hell, then if they're in Hell they're being punished for whatever they did, and if they're in Heaven they've been forgiven and purged of their wrongdoings and whatever underlying personality defects that caused them. If you're into reincarnation, then they'll get their comeuppance in the next life. Maybe your offspring or grandkid will be their high school teacher in trigonometry or something. If oblivion, what's the point? Regardless of the afterlife, holding on to pain and wrongdoing years after they've died is self-defeating and will prevent you from developing the life you're supposed to live. They're dead, it's in the past, move on. To allow them to torment you years after they've died is very generous of you, but counter-productive.

There's probably more, but those are the 4 biggies that come to mind.

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Dear Paul, It's so good to hear from you and all of your amazingly good/positive insight. I am actually just starting a similar pattern of one year anniversaries. The last time I saw him, the last time I... and the anniversary of his death is just around the corner. I have been thinking what to do about it all. So your insight and ideas come at a perfect time; I love the analogy to a fulcrum, a point to swing forward from. I think I may keep re-reading your post to help me with that forward momentum. Of your ideas, I think I have mastered #4. Forgiveness is one of the big lessons I have learned. Kay once wrote that forgiveness sets us free from the power of wrong and hurtfulness. I definately agree this is a "biggie" in healing. Good to hear from you, Kelly P.S. Happy belated birthday!

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Paul,

I loved your post!

Lori

Lori,

Thanks! :)

Paul

Dear Paul, It's so good to hear from you and all of your amazingly good/positive insight. I am actually just starting a similar pattern of one year anniversaries. The last time I saw him, the last time I... and the anniversary of his death is just around the corner. I have been thinking what to do about it all. So your insight and ideas come at a perfect time; I love the analogy to a fulcrum, a point to swing forward from. I think I may keep re-reading your post to help me with that forward momentum. Of your ideas, I think I have mastered #4. Forgiveness is one of the big lessons I have learned. Kay once wrote that forgiveness sets us free from the power of wrong and hurtfulness. I definately agree this is a "biggie" in healing. Good to hear from you, Kelly P.S. Happy belated birthday!

Hey Kelly:

Forgiveness is liberating. It unchains you from the pain or the hurt that another has caused. You release from your mind the crippling effects that it has and allow yourself to move on.

I once had serious problems with forgiveness, thinking that it was a weakness of sorts. That if I forgave that would be like allowing the other person a victory over me. But I learned that was an incorrect way of looking at it. As long as I refuse to forgive, I am allowing that person to have power over me.

All the more reason to forgive the dead.

Paul

P.S. Thanks for the birthday greetings! :D

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Thanks for the good advice Paul. The second pointer really hit home for me. I lost my mother 3 years ago, who was my best friend. I am 57, and she was 94 when she passed. I lost my older sister just 9 months before that, who was like a second mother to me, so I did a lot of grief work inside myself, and pushed myself to move through the grief. I felt like a shell of my former self for so long. I started to feel less pain of the loss and more "normal" for a while. Then, the anger and the missing of my Mom seemed to come back. I've been dealing with that lately - more memories seem to bring it up.

What I'll remember is your mention of distinguishing between the pain and the person. That was what I needed to be inspired by right now. Just wanted to say thanks, Deborah

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Hi Deborah,

Welcome to these forums (I noticed that you joined very recently). You'll find a whole host of people here who have been through much of what you have experienced, and they can help with the anger and the "Mom missing" (my Mom died, that's what brought me here. I get recurring bouts of that. It'll be 15 months this Wednesday.)

And you certainly have much needed experience to offer those who are having trouble moving forward.

Take care and I hope to see you around the group.

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Paul...I hope you dont mind if I print out your post and carry it with me and put it in a notebook of sorts that I keep in the house and I bring in the car when I'm running around. Just sometimes re-reading a little advice can make the diffrence in the outcome of your day or the situation you are about to deal with. You are a great philosopher/writer!

Thanks again...Lori

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I have found that Paul has a very unique way of looking at things. He has worked so hard on his grief, looking at it from all aspects, as he demonstrated in his post (looking at anniversaries as markers of growth). I think we all need to be reminded to not only look at our emotions from all angles, but to try to find something positive, if possible, from this whole grief experience. Thanks for reminding us, Paul.

Hugs,

Shell

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I'm having trouble figuring out how to navigate this reply button - well, thanks for your response, Paul. I wish I had found this kind of forum much earlier than this. I would have really benefitted from this. I still take everything one day at a time, as my life certainly has lots of ups and downs -and dealing with grief sort of slows down my normal responses to life sometimes. I have a feeling that whatever used to be normal has changed for me - like what I call grief is like going through a passage somewhere inside me, or a door that I walked through into some alien unknown territory and I'm never quite sure which way to turn.

I know that the pain doesn't hurt quite so much any more. I cried a river of tears already. Mostly I still wonder why I am left behind - there's a part of me that still asks "why?" I read somewhere that a mother is always a vital part of her children in some way, even after she is gone. I remember my Mom telling me not to try to hold on to her after she was gone, but to be brave enough to let her go on to wherever she goes. My courage wavers but I think I'm still processing - and somewhere down deep inside me I feel something new stirring - I hope I give birth to it soon. Thanks, Deborah

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Hi Deborah,

You said "like what I call grief is like going through a passage somewhere inside me, or a door that I walked through into some alien unknown territory and I'm never quite sure which way to turn."

That's a pretty accurate description of how I viewed it, paarticulary th "passage somewhere inside me" part.

I do think that it as a good way to think about it. It is a passage or process to go through. A journey if you will, and it goes on inside us.

Those of us here who traveled into that unknown alien territory help each other in figuring out which way to turn.

Keep posting!

Paul

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  • 4 weeks later...

If somebody is a little proactive in moving forward then these dates can even be used as a fulcrum to swing themselves through grief a little more. A hump to jump over. It may help them to "move on but not leave behind" (as a lot of people fear they will do with their dead if they "get past it"). "One year ago this happened. I'm not going to focus on that, instead I'm going to focus on the year since. How far I've come and grown. How much stronger I am as person because I've learned some lessons and applied them."

Dear Paul,

I wanted to let you know that this piece of advice completely changed my one year anniversary day. This past Sunday was the day before the one year but it felt like the actual day because Josh died on a Sunday. I was a mess. But then Sunday night, I found your post that I had printed out back in Feb. I really gave the above part a lot of thought and a lot of attention. And it worked MIRACLES!! It's all about attitude. It made me realize that on Monday I should focus on how much I've changed for the better, how far I've come and grown, and what an amazing gift Josh was in my life. I decided to think less about the accident, his death, the huge loss, the overwhelming grief and sadness, and instead think about all the positives. Even one of my friends said on Monday, "wow you're really doing so well today!" I replied "you can go one of two ways and I choose to go the positive way!" I made Monday a day I recognized my amazing friends who helped me survive the year. Brought them lunch at work, little presents and cards to say how important they are to me, etc.

So Paul, I cannot thank you enough for your insight and words of wisdom. You changed what could have been a horrible day into a positive day! So I will pass your insight along whenever someone asks me about the "one year."

Thank you so very much!!

Hugs, Kelly

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Hi Kelly:

Thank you so very much for your kind words, I am so glad you got through that day and are better for it. I appreciate your compliments and it's nice to know that sometimes a person can have a positive impact in a big way. Many times we do not know when or even if we've helped anyone. I'm happy I helped you.

Anytime,

Paul

:):):)

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One thing connected with this topic I started is that I am nearing the end of my "Season of Anniversaries". It involves my house, or rather, my old house, the one I shared with Mom.

I noticed that I am going through some signs of grieving over it. The house was sold about a year ago, (I forget the exact date, actually, but it was March 2006) the family moved in in early April. I find that I am obsessing a little over the house, the circumstances surrounding my departure, things lost and such. I fantasize over what I would have done with it had I inherited the house or been in a financial position to buy it from Mom or the estate. Spring is coming and I'm picturing what yardwork and landscaping I would need to do. I grieve. I get depressed a little ( I was actually listening to some melancholy music on my iTunes today :( ) and despondent and just plain MISS THE PLACE. I especially miss the backyard.

But I have to put my own advice to work and get past it. This seems tougher. Mom is dead, gone. The house is 9/10ths of a mile away. Can't miss it when driving past a block away on Main Street. This does seem tougher. I have to dig through Marty's site and read all the things she has on secondary losses.

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Thank you Kelly. :)

The loss of whomever it was that brought us here is only a part of the whole issue of griefwork. The house was about a year ago, and I thought I had dealt with it successfully back then when I learned of its sale and that people were moving in. I said a prayer for them as a way of "letting go". I felt better afterwards. But it wasn't to last. I saw that they were butchering the yardwork and landscaping, stuff that had been there for decades (it was my family's home for nearly 60 years, and mine for 33 of my own 44). That just hurt. During my grief counseling sessions I reported numerous dreams of being "uprooted". So there's been this simmering, irrational resentment lurking for a year or so.

I'll get through it. I usually do. Thanks! (((hugs)))

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Paul, I feel for you regarding the house. My parents owned their house, mine and my brothers childhood home for almost 50 years (in Ohio) I don't live in the same state so I don't have to deal with seeing it or knowing that it's right around the corner for me.

After my dad passed away, my mom spent a lot of time out here in California with me and my family. Meantime, my brothers (who lived in the same area as my Mom) sold her house and we were able to get her into a senior apartment near her neighborhood. She knew so many people there, mostly widows like her,and it was the best thing for her.

Last September, when I went in for a visit (a month later in October I went back when she was dying...funny how things work out), we drove past the house and there was a car in the driveway. I looked at mom and said, "I'm parking and going to ring the bell"...like we were spys or someting! She asked if we should and I said YES!!!...I want to see what they have done to the house! So I parked the car, rang the doorbell, explained who I was and these people were so warm and nice and asked us if we wanted to come in. So I got Mom out of the car and we went in and it looked totally different...but in a good way. The new owner asked my mom if it made her sad or happy to know that a different family is happy in her old home. My mom being always the eternal optimist said that she was so happy that the house was being well taken care of and "loved". It made me cry as I felt an era come to an end.

I really hadn't thought about the house much as a loss as I was able to see it again with my mom right before her passing and she had given these new people her blessing and they in turn promised her that they would take good care of it.

But now I feel like I'm watching an old sappy movie as I am typing this as it brings tears to my eyes. I loved that house. I moved out of there at 21, and every time I would go back for a visit, I stayed in my old bedroom and the sheets were the same "flower power" sheets from the 70's when I was a teenager!!! My family and I would make several trips back to visit my parents over the years and that was the only place that we would stay. Now when I go back for future visits, I'll stay with one of my nieces or my brothers...it's strange.

I feel really lucky that I had a chance to see it with my mom and that it made her happy to know that other people had fallen in love with it as she and my dad did all those years ago.

It's funny how these secondary losses have a life of their own and can take on a new set of emotions.

Take care and hope that you'll find what you're looking for in Marty's articles!

Lori

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For me, personally, I couldn't do what you did, Lori. I wish I was able to but my departure from the old house was painful and very trying emotionally. It colored everything that has happened since. I catch a glimpse of the new owner's landscaping/yardwork activities and I'm like "WHAT ARE THEY THINKING??? DON"T THEY KNOW ANYTHING????"

I am very glad you got some "closure" or settlement for your old house. I'm looking forward to leaving my town in a year.

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Paul, I think that I was able to do what I did was because I was with my mom and HER positive outlook on the situation spilled onto me. Yes, it makes me sad, but I was SO LUCKY to have gone there with my mom and hear from her how happy she was. I don't know if I would have been so brave if I wasn't with my mom.

When I was with my mom, especially when she was up in years, I saw a sense of humor and fun in her that was very contagious. I never thought of it quite like this, but that place in time with her in our old house was a precious, cherished moment.

Thanks, Paul for bringing up the subject...even though we have completely opposite takes on a similar situation!

Take care...Lori

Edited by LoriS.
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