Anniversary dates in grief are significant for many reasons. They mark the passage of time in the journey of grief, but these anniversary dates can also mark progress and change in the grief experienced and change in the mourner. Anniversary dates, birthdays, holidays and other special days in grief bring with them each time they are experienced a sense of dread, sadness, and all the emotions that come with the harsh, piercing reminders that your loved one is not physically present with you.
The month of May each year for me contains an overwhelming list of reminders that my beautiful wife Cindy and my adorable daughter Katie are not and cannot be physically with me. May 1 is Katie’s birthday. May 9 is Cindy’s birthday. Then there is Mother’s Day each year reminding me that my two surviving children, Christian and Sarah, are still missing their mother. But the count of difficult days for me doesn’t stop with just those days. May 15 is the day of the accident that took Katie’s and Cindy’s lives. May 15 is also the date of Katie’s death when she died instantly in the crash. Two days later May 17 my wife Cindy died in surgery. May 19 marks the annual anniversary of the double funeral for my wife Cindy and my daughter Katie. Needless to say, the month of May is difficult for me and my children. I would be happy if May could be removed from the yearly calendar permanently.
As time goes by these anniversary dates in May still carry with them emotional pain and spiritual struggle that simply come from missing valuable people. My grief is different now, but it is still painful and it is still a struggle although it changes with the passage of time. I never expect my grief to become completely easy. In the very first year of my grief every 15th of the month was a grief anniversary date filled with dread, sorrow, tears and my overflowing love for these two valuable people.
After the first year of my grief the monthly anniversary date of the accident became less and less of a complication in my grief journey. But the dreaded month of May still remains the huge thorn in my side in my grief which is a privilege because my wife and my daughter are worth missing. I do not know how my endurance of the anniversary month of May is helping me to heal, but I just have to trust that it is healthy and healing. I never want to quit loving Cindy and Katie. Therefore, I will never quit expressing that love as grief as long as I am not in their physical presence.
Last year on May 2nd, 2012 I had the privilege of addressing a class at the Pepperdine Lectureship. The topic was”Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” the name of my newly published grief survival guide. In attendance for my class was my 30-year-old son Christian, my 28-year-old daughter Sarah and my brother Jason. It was a meaningful and emotional 19th anniversary of our losses for all the family. One friend asked me the other day, “Isn’t it great that God has given you such a ministry to help other mourners?” I thought to myself, “Yes, God has given me a great opportunity to help other mourners. But I would trade it all in a minute to have my Cindy and my Katie back!”
Time in grief is a strange thing. For me the 20 years since the deaths of my daughter Katie and my wife Cindy can sometimes seem like forever. But many times when memories hit me and grief outbursts take place, it seems like the losses just happened yesterday. What keep me going on are my faith and my hope that we will be reunited. I have a feeling that when the reunion of my family takes place that time, the time spent in grief, and that the exhausting experience of grief itself will not matter anymore.
What I wish for you as a fellow mourner is that you can find hope and promise that will sustain you for the full grief journey especially during difficult days. Grief is never easy, but with the right support, coping skills and good information, it can become easier. I want you to find hope that your grief will not always be like it is right now-overwhelming and all-consuming. I also want you to experience that you do have the promise of being supplied with all the resources-including people, information, support and comfort-that you will need to successfully get through grief.
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on Amazon.com.
Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.
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