When a loved one passes away, you could experience sadness over and over – often even years later. Reminders frequently make the pain of loss worse. Knowing what to anticipate and how to handle reminders of your loss will give you a greater chance in moving forward with your healing.
Grief may resurface on the anniversary of your loved one’s passing or other significant occasions throughout the year. These emotions, also known as an anniversary reaction, can be painful but do not have to be a hindrance to your healing. Their presence reveals how you treasured your loved one and miss them.
Reminders can be Everywhere
Some reminders of your loved one could be unavoidable, such as recognizing the date of their passing, celebrating holidays, birthdays, or attending new activities you know they would have loved. Even commemorative events for other people can make you feel the agony of your own loss. Depending on your loss they can range from when someone has a baby or their oldest child graduates from college and moves out.
Reminders may also be connected to sights, sounds, and smells. And they may come as a surprise when you least expect it. You might pass a restaurant that your loved one enjoyed while driving. Or you turn on a playlist and hear their favorite song and suddenly you are unexpectedly overcome with emotions.
Common Reactions to Reminders
Grief has an unpredictable path. Reactions to anniversaries can bring back vivid memories of the emotions and circumstances surrounding the passing of a loved one. They can persist for days at a time or, in some situations, much longer. When you have an anniversary reaction, you could feel the same strong feelings and reactions you did the first time you lost a loved one, including:
- Tearful Outbursts
- Difficulty Sleeping
Tips to Working through Reactions to Reminders
You could still experience melancholy even years after a loss when you come across memories of your loved one’s passing. Take action to deal with reminders of your loss as you continue your healing.
- Be prepared
- Plan Ahead
- Remember and feel
- Prioritize Relationships
Anniversary reactions are normal and even predictable. Knowing that the chances of experiencing it can help you prepare for your reaction to it and give you a better chance for healing.
Plan strategies that have helped you thus far for any upcoming expected reminders. Schedule a visit with friends or family during times that you might feel more alone or experience reminders.
Remember the good things about your loved one and the time you had together, rather than only focusing on your loss. It is important to allow yourself to feel your emotions and know that it is okay to be sad. It is equally as important to allow yourself to feel other emotions like happiness and joy.
One example is to make a donation in your loved one’s memory, or plant a tree in their honor. Taking action and doing something tangible can be therapeutic and healing.
Focus on the connections you have with your friends and family. Draw close to them and find comfort in their presence and support. Perhaps consider joining a support group for grief. Make time for your faith and talking with God and listening to Him. This can be a challenge but the long term value of healthy relationships in your healing journey is crucial for you to live again.
When to Seek Extra Support
Grief has no time limit, and anniversary reactions might send you into a tailspin. Even so, grief usually gets less intense over time as you work through the pain of your loss.
If grief doesn’t seem to be getting better over time, or if grief is making it difficult to carry on with daily activities, consider consulting a grief counselor. Unresolved grief can lead to depression, physical ailments, and various mental health concerns. However, with professional help, you can regain a sense of control and direction in your life and stay on the path to healing.
If you are ready to begin the journey of overcoming your grief then we are here for you. At New Vision Counseling and Consulting we have a team of caring therapists who are highly trained in helping you work through grief and create a life you want to be a part of. The natural next step is to call us at (405) 921-7776. We hope to meet you soon!