Holiday time is hard because it is so family-centric and, thus, makes the absence of an important member of your family glaringly evident.
In general, there are probably many celebratory dates and milestones that you wouldn’t mind erasing from the calendar these days. However, if you step back and think about it, the days/weeks leading up to these momentous occasions (and the thinking and fretting you do about them) are usually much worse than the actual day itself.
This is especially true of the anniversary of your partner’s death.
Excuse the indelicacy of the next statement, but I think to put this in perspective, try thinking about this time period in comparison to the days/week before you get your monthly period and the premenstrual symptoms you may experience.
For example, you may not realize how emotional you are until AFTER you get your period. Then, in retrospect, you think back about how you were acting during that time and realize your emotions were on super high alert. Once you get your period (or clear that hurdle), you are able to deal with life in a much calmer manner.
For me, the actual anniversary date was never as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was always the couple of weeks/month that led up to the day that knocked me for a loop. And it seemed no matter how many times this happened in subsequent years, my emotional behavior always took me by surprise. You would think that after many years I would recognize these symptoms! However, as with most situations, everything is crystal clear in retrospect but not so easy to recognize when you’re in the midst of it.
Due to this phenomenon, I think it is more the anticipation of “the day” than the day itself. It is about reliving those last moments, or, especially if the death was unexpected, thinking about how you might have lived those last couple of weeks/months differently. I found this time period just burdened with regrets and lots of what-ifs.
By the time the actual anniversary day rolls around, you may be feeling a sense of relief knowing that you just have one more day to get through and then there is a fresh year directly in front of you.
Each year is a marker of all that you have accomplished by yourself. For example, you have managed to cope with all the seasons of the year and the hard days they have brought; you have made independent decisions; you have supported your family financially and emotionally; and you have grown more than you can imagine.
It’s important to remember, though, that growth often comes with a big dollop of pain. The truth is that grief is never totally dissolved. Consequently, don’t expect to wake up one morning and feel like you did before your loss. That is not possible, for you are changed forever (and not necessarily in a bad way).
What the passage of time provides is more perspective, along with dissolving the raw physical hurt that you feel inside. This gives you the option of choosing to be in charge of your grief vs. it being in charge of you …that is, you are able to put it away for a while and enjoy the present moment.
The way you celebrate the holiday season is also changed forever, and, in some ways, this might not be a bad thing either. Now that you are more appreciative of every moment you are afforded with those you love, family squabbles may seem less important. In fact, you may want to take this opportunity to forgive certain trespasses.
The commercialization of the season may also appeal to you less. Instead, you can start to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays, which is gratitude, vs. being concerned with buying the biggest presents, eating too much and the general craziness that accompanies this time of the year.
This year, rather than ruing your solitude, step into it and embrace it. Take this time for deep reflection in order to formulate a plan for the new year that is almost upon us.