An anniversary marks a significant event in life. Most times, we think of anniversaries as celebrations. But what about those anniversaries that aren’t so great? Death and divorce leave a huge imprint on the lives they touch. And these anniversaries are multiplied by every other special event was ever celebrated. We can not avoid the anniversaries, and we do not want to celebrate. We honor the memory while touching the pain they cause as little as possible.
Admittedly, it’s easier not to remember. I’ve been told that I live life as if it’s a circle. I always come back to an event. Some people live life as a straight line and just move away from unpleasant events. Yet, those sad anniversaries are just as important as the happy ones. These anniversaries give us a chance to review the past year, to see what growth we have achieved, to see that we are still living. We are given a chance to reflect on what we currently value, what is really important. While I don’t want to dwell on the rough times, I do think there is value in remembering. I guess I’m looking for whatever good there is to remember. I want to find value, and justify the pain that shoots thru me at odd times.
Too often society defines how we should react. We are told to be strong. Be brave. Don’t look weak. Don’t get mad, get even. And, the expectation is there: Get over it. Move on. The first year in a child’s life is measured first in days, weeks, months and eventually years. Anniversaries are often measured the same way. But, after the first anniversary of a death or divorce, we are supposed to stop noticing the passing of time. After all, its been a year. You should be “over it”, right? I expected that first year of widowhood to be hard. I was surprised how hard the second year was. I wasn’t “fixed”. I still had issues. I didn’t cry as much and the days weren’t as dark, but the scars were still fresh and tender. I was moving forward with life and any admissions of grief were frowned upon by most. I had little patience with my own progress. I often felt guilty about grieving because it showed weakness. I was blessed to have friends that understood, accepted and encouraged me to be honest. Never underestimate the value of a strong shoulder or a firm embrace. These can quite literally save a life.
My faith was all I had left when death destroyed my life. I had my hope. And while hope and faith are good, they don’t remove the pain or the regret. So often in the darkest days, I thought I was letting God down. I wasn’t recovering fast enough. I was too sad. I was angry. I was lost in a world I didn’t understand and I didn’t want to be there. People that had offered support, the people I thought I could depend upon drifted away and moved on with their lives. I had to inch forward into the world around me, careful not to make anyone uncomfortable with my neediness. I had to learn to trust myself and others, again.
As each anniversary comes and goes, I remember what used to be. I wonder what might have been. And, I mourn the losses. And, I remember that I am alive and I have a purpose. I believe that God has a plan for my life even if I don’t understand or (sometimes) agree with it. Each year gives me a chance to measure how very far I have come and what I have accomplished. I’ve learned to celebrate the inches instead of bemoaning the shortage of miles. The anniversaries still hurt. They always will. And, I will continue to celebrate what I can as each year passes.