The first anniversaries, holidays, and special days after a loved one’s death are difficult because we are so intensely aware that the person is no longer here to share in the joyous occasions. This is especially true if that person is a spouse, a life mate, a soul mate. Whatever traditions we developed together become obsolete when only one of us remains to carry on. The pain, the yearning to be together once more can be devastating on these days.
If those first anniversaries do not mark joyous occasions and celebrations but days of horror, the pain is oh, so much worse.
This has been a particularly difficult month for many who lost their mates because Valentine’s Day is shoved down our throats. Wherever we go, we see images of happy couples. We remember we once were loved, once were part of a couple, and now we are not. Oddly enough, my upsurge in grief this month has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. We were not a romantic couple, did not see the point of following the crowd and celebrating a day just because someone once decided we should. We ignored the day, hence it has no baggage to bring me pain. In fact, today was a good day for me — I had lunch with a couple of friends from my grief group. We have graduated from the need for the group but still need the companionship of those who have experienced the same losses, so today we initiated our own little social group. There was no maudlin talk, just the normal pleasantries of friends sharing a meal.
Still, this has been a dreadful month for me, a month of painful anniversaries. A year ago last week, my life mate — my soul mate — bent down to pick up something off the floor and pain hit him so severely, it sent him to bed for the rest of his life. A year ago next week we got the diagnosis. At the beginning of March, when he saw a doctor for the last time, the oncologist told him he had three to six months to live. Two days after that, we signed up for hospice. Three weeks later, he died.
I hadn’t thought of these days as anniversaries, so I did not steal myself for the onrush of grief. But grief has a schedule all its own, and it came for me. Again. How can his descent into these final stages of dying have begun a year ago? Those days seem so close that if my arms were long enough, I could reach behind me and touch him. Hug him. Keep him safe.
Today, thinking about his last weeks of unendurable pain, I feel self-indulgent for all my yearning to have him back. How could I ever subject him to that again? And yet, like a child, I weep for what I cannot have. I wonder what, in my youth or childhood, I did that was so terrible to deserve such punishment. I listen for the phone, hoping he’ll call me and tell me he forgives me and I can come home.
Grief is irrational. It stems from a part of us that has no logic. I know I did nothing to send him away. I know he is never going to call me again. I know I am not being punished for some long ago transgression.
And yet the grief keeps pounding at me during this time of terrible anniversaries.