Grief Anniversary Dates: Milestones and Painful Memories

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.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or

The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on

Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX



7 Comments Add yours

  1. Brad White says:

    I’m a relative newcomer to this site ( about a month or so ) and have found it greatly helpful for a number of reasons. This month’s article is especially important, since we are coming up on that first anniversary of the suicide death of my stepson. So thank you for that support. I have also found many truths, through the articles I’ve read so far, that also applies to a different form of grief called divorce. Even though this grief is different than the actual death of a loved one, I have found much of the wisdom and insight here, applies equally to the process of healing that many divorcees need as well. My wife and I facilitate a divorce recovery group and I’ve found much of what’s expressed here, can and does apply to what we divorced persons have gone through. Although the person who walks through the fires of divorce, deals with many different things than the person who has had to face a death in their life, we both have the same need to make sense of the sudden loss of someone in our lives and allow ourselves to grieve. So I just wanted to express my thanks and appreciation for those deep and painful things that you share on this site and the help it brings to all of us.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you will continue to share your experience, insights an story. Visit the blog for twice a week new posts. Maybe more if I feel so moved.

  2. “I would be happy if May could be removed from the yearly calendar permanently.” My husband has expressed the very same sentiment except our month is August. I cannot begin to comprehend your individual grief, but I do understand how sometimes the clustering of various “anniversaries” can make things more difficult during certain times of the year. I wish you peace in your journey.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Jan. May God bless and support you as you go through difficult dates in your grief journey.

  3. rebecca baker says:

    I think, I read all of that understand it so perfectly. All so well written .my daughter is worth remembering♥ and its normal and natural responce to the lose of a child . I could not put it into words so thank you . Im very sorry for your lose .

  4. Bill says:

    April is the anniversary month of the death of my wife of 30 years in 2013.

    April 2nd she was found unresponsive and airlifted to the hospital, April 5th I stopped life support per her previous written instructions, April 18th she stopped breathing and was officially declared dead. April 20th we had a local funeral, April 22nd she was buried in her home state with a graveside service. If all of that wasn’t enough, April 10th is her birthday.

    It’s a terrible month for me and nobody around me seems to understand and some actually tell me that I just need to get over it so I just don’t mention it anymore. I don’t know many who have lost a spouse, especially when they were a soulmate, and I understand that they can’t relate. I also accept that everyone grieves differently.

    My new relationship may not survive this year’s anniversary since she is not at all understanding or accepting of my moodiness, irritability and unresponsiveness although I have told her of the significance of April.

    I will survive however, and continue to do the best I can, I’m always hopeful that things will get better. Your story and the years you have been dealing with loss helps me to keep moving along.

    1. I’m saddened to hear about your loss and how it still is impacting you. Do your best and don’t worry what others think. Blessings and prayers.

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