How I’m Preparing For The First Anniversary Of My Husband’s Death

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I am approaching the one-year anniversary of my husband Peter’s death and I am trying to figure out why this date has such power over me. Anniversary dates should hold no more power over us than we are willing to cede to them. Sure, I am dreading this day but I know I will face it head on just as I have faced all the other rites of passage this year. I understand that I have to formulate a solid plan, plus a back up contingency one as well. I don’t want the date to sneak up on me so I am prepared to the max. My friends and support group are so dear and are a constant fallback system as a safety net, since I really might fall backwards!

My son Nick and I talked about how we would commemorate this date. Nick suggested that we celebrate the fact that we survived a year without Peter. I was down with that. I can handle patting ourselves on the back for making it through the toughest year of our lives. It will be a graduation ceremony of sorts for us. We have passed all the holidays and significant reminder dates and survived. This is a major accomplishment!

There are expectations that the one-year passage is a symbol of moving on. I have learned that grief is not like a container of milk. It has no expiration date. There is no specific time that we need to be done with it or toss it into the trash. It seems that grief may have a shelf life similar to a Twinkie! The myth of closure includes the belief that after one year of grief, poof, you will magically be happy. I loved Peter for more than 48 years. This almost half century of love can’t be gotten over in a year!

Getting a tattoo was helpful in constantly reminding me of my love. I considered a few other ideas to commemorate the one-year anniversary. I was contemplating writing a letter to Peter about my survival but I have done that to death (ok, gallows humor, I know) so I scrapped that notion. I could make Peter’s favorite food, steak and fries, but that would kill me — yes, more puns. I decided to see my grief therapist and cry for a solid hour, which sounds disturbing but actually makes me feel a whole lot better. Yes, it’s like hitting your head against a wall, with a blessed relief after. She will take me through some imagery and I will remember Peter through unconscious thoughts, which can help calm my psyche. I might bring in a candle or a helium balloon filled with a message saying “you would be so proud of me Petey,” which I could release after.

It seems I am in this for the long haul. The acute pain has worn off, the tears have lessened, but I still wake up each day with a hollow emptiness in my heart. I have accepted my loss, I am redefining the course of my life, and writing is my purpose towards a goal of contribution. Every day I will get up knowing that I am missing Peter in my life. It will hurt, but I now have hope that in a few years, it will hurt a whole lot less. That is a goal I can envision.

In this second year in my journey of grief, I will try to adapt to life without Peter. I know that I will be lonelier, as my support system backs off and I tire of the struggle and ergo lose courage in my passage through grief. The first year I patted myself on the back for handling the finances and for surviving an unimaginable nightmare-come-true. But there is something empowering about making it through that year. I know this second year will be an extreme challenge, but I have vowed to find something that I can genuinely look forward to with anticipation. Anticipation is a noun that has eluded me for a complete year. I pledge to learn to adapt to mysaudade, the Portuguese word meaning the “presence of absence.” I will find a way to incorporate the yearning for Peter and make it part of my soul, integrating Peter’s heart into mine. Maybe, if he is in my heart, we can beat as one again in spirit, even if he is not palpably present.

Your Loved One lives In Your Heart
Many tender memories soften your grief,
May fond recollection bring you relief,
And may you find comfort and peace in the thought
Of the joy that knowing your loved one brought…
For time and space can never divide
Or keep your loved one from your side
When memory paints in colors true
The happy hours that belonged to you.
— Helen Steiner Rice

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