There are so many tough days after you lose a loved one. Some are tough just because. No reason needed. Then there are those that are tough because they were meaningful to you and your loved one. These are days like birthdays, holidays, your anniversary, Super Bowl Sunday, annual festivals, etc. Hopefully you are able to still celebrate and enjoy these days while you remember your loved one fondly.
But then there is the anniversary of their death. Nobody wants to celebrate that day. We do, however, usually acknowledge the day…whether we want to or not. I’ve noticed in the past, especially for my dad’s and my husband’s anniversary, that I get a little wonky about the week before. With my dad, I wasn’t actively thinking about what was coming up, but your mind always seems to know.
My mom and I don’t really do anything to commemorate this day. He was cremated, so we can’t go to a cemetery. We think about him often, but the day he passed isn’t something we really like to focus on. Actually, that is true for every loved one that I have ever lost.
I hate to think back and remember the day Jeff passed away. That day was the most awful one that I have lived through! Thinking back on it makes my anxiety soar. Truly, I don’t want to focus on anything about his death. I would much rather focus on who Jeff was, all of our wonderful memories, and the fact that we will see him again thanks to Jesus.
Not to mention that Jeff died on our niece’s birthday. Emma turned 14 that day, and even then, I remember thinking this is terrible. I hate that this is a dark cloud for our family on her birthday. Jeff’s death is horrible! But Emma’s birth was wonderful! Heck, she is wonderful! The good needs to outweigh the bad. We can choose not to let his death ruin every December 6th from here on out.
So, what’s a mom to do? Jeff and I have three children. How do I handle this dreaded day? I don’t want to focus on the day, but I can’t just hide in my bedroom under my covers until December 7th arrives. That is not a healthy coping mechanism to model for my children. Last year, on the first anniversary, Jeff’s sister organized everyone meeting out at the cemetery which was nice. Before Jeff passed he said he wanted me to make 6 dozen molasses cookies for Christmas. So, my kids and I baked molasses cookies and took them to the cemetery for everyone.
While that was a nice way to celebrate the first anniversary, I’m not sure what to do for the second which is only 68 days away (ugh!). Two of my children don’t like to go to the cemetery at all, and I don’t feel I should make them. I decided the best way to handle this decision was to talk to my kids. So, I did.
None of them have a problem talking about or remembering their dad with love and affection. We discussed and decided that each year we will try to do at least one of the following three things:
- Bake cookies…probably always molasses
- Eat dinner together…something or someplace that Jeff enjoyed
- Watch a movie Jeff enjoyed…old John Wayne movies or classic 80’s films
This year we are going to do all three. We are going to bake molasses cookies, but probably not six dozen. For dinner, we will go to a pizza place that Jeff has gone to since he was little. We will be sure to gripe about the changes they have made to the crust just like he would have. Jeff and I loved to buy old movies from our childhood and share them with the kids. One that Jeff wanted to share with them was ‘Harry and the Hendersons.’ We hadn’t watched that yet, so I plan to watch that one with them this year.
Will we actually do one of these three things every year from here on out? I can’t foresee the future, so I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to be intentional about this day so that we can remember Jeffrey fondly. I want us to remember the jokes he told, his laugh, how hard he worked for his family, and his silly dance moves. I want us to talk about and share memories of him, and I want us to thank God and Jesus that we will see him again someday. What I don’t want is for us to dwell on how he died or the fact that he is gone.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.” I love my husband deeply, but sorrow is not my friend. I will let it linger for a bit, but I will never let it build a nest. If the situation was reversed, I wouldn’t want Jeff to allow his sorrow to dominate his life.
Ladies, how do you handle the anniversary of your loved ones’ death? Yes, your husband, but also others that were dear to you and have passed. What traditions do you have for that day? Have you gotten to a point where you are able to handle the day well or does it consume you? I would love to hear from you all, and I am sure others would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for this day as well. Much love to you all as we navigate these difficult waters!