As I approach my 3 year anniversary of being a widow, I can’t help but really reflect on what this all has meant. There are a ton of anniversaries throughout the year from the first date, proposal, the day we bought our house, wedding day and the list goes on and on. Our relationship is made up of a ton of dates that signify celebrations and times that were difficult that brought us together.

The thing about anniversaries is that it’s more than just a date. I know that it’s marked by a certain date on a certain month and it comes every year. What being a widow has taught me is that it’s just so much more. A death anniversary means that so much time has passed since the last time I heard his voice, felt his embrace or heard him coming through the door.

The anniversary of his death brings back the dreams of loss or of me running around the globe looking for Tony and just missing him. It brings nightmares where I wake up and don’t remember what the dream was about, but I’m full of anxiety, panic, and sadness. It’s flashbacks to the 5 days in the hospital of him on life support. It’s the conversation of the doctor telling me that there’s no hope and that I need to take him off life support. I run that conversation over and over in my head.

It’s interrupting thoughts for weeks leading up to the anniversary date that bombards me with memories of Tony taking his last breath. Of holding his hand and feeling the life drain out of him. It’s a mild hum of anxiety that starts about 4 weeks from the date where I find that I’m less tolerant and more prone to sudden emotional reactions. It’s knowing that the date is coming and working hard to prepare for it and yet not really knowing how to prepare. It’s looking in the mirror and not recognizing the woman I see because she’s stronger and different. It’s crying at random moments and feeling on edge with sadness.

I don’t celebrate the date; I honor it as best as I can. I like to spend the day alone hiking because that’s what he loved to do. This year, I’m going to hike for him and go to the spa for me. I know that people in my life will send me texts telling me that they love me and I appreciate all of them. I wish that they really understood that it’s not the date that’s hard – it’s that I’m a widow, to begin with, that’s hard. It’s every day. It’s waking up each morning knowing that it’s another day without him and that it breaks my heart. I know that I’m getting better at living with the pain and heartbreak while attempting to build a new life.

Anniversaries are so much more than just a date on the calendar. Truthfully, I’m glad to get over the hump of it. The anticipation and build up are the hardest part. It will be 3 years on June 17th that Tony took his last breath. I can hardly believe it – feels like six months ago and at the same time a million years ago. Time has betrayed me in so many ways and yet, I will get through this one a little bit easier than the last. The passage of time doesn’t make things easier, working my ass off to heal and live the best life possible slowly makes grief less sharp.