Anniversary Grief

Molly’s loss occurred many months ago. She had been feeling much better; yet her turbulent feelings seem to have returned. She is shocked and scared to be feeling so distraught. It seems like she has returned to the emotional state she was in around the time her husband, Felix, died.

Felix had been ill for nine months before he died. Molly grieved a great deal since first hearing the diagnosis.

Molly has good friends to talk with, although some have not been very helpful. The unhelpful ones have abandoned her. As it turns out, they are mostly couple friends.

Writing a journal has been a big help for Molly. She is repeatedly surprised at how feelings surface so readily when she writes. Molly is a private person and so the writing is a safe and private means of sharing her pain.

Molly thinks she is doing well with her grief and was beginning to “feel more normal”. This sudden turbulence has surfaced before and yet it has not been this strong. She expected Felix’s birthday to be upsetting, as well as her own. They had celebrated these special days and it was hard to live them alone for the first time.

Their wedding anniversary had also been tough and yet the biggest surprise thus far had been Valentine’s Day. This was the day, many years ago, that they first met on a blind date.

This present upset is different, however. It is stronger and more extensive. It feels a lot like fresh grief.

There are a few explanations for Molly’s current feelings. First of all, it is late November and the days are getting shorter and shorter. The weather is often poor and depressing with gray rain clouds being the usual fare. This time of year is hard because the warm season has died away. The plants and trees are changing and loss is in the air. This heightens Molly’s personal grief.

The second factor is the season itself. Christmas is coming and then the New Year. Christmas was Felix’s favorite time of the year. He was a child at heart and loved to put up lights and decorate the house; most of all he valued the spiritual meaning of the celebration.

Molly is coming face to face with Christmas and the reality that she has no Felix to share it with. She’d read somewhere about “anniversary grief reactions” and that Christmas was the toughest anniversary of all for many.

She is reminding herself that she is fine and this reawakened pain is normal and yet she is amazed at the intensity. Already she is aware that she is writing more and that it is helping. She is making plans to have a bright and warm holiday in memory of her mate. She is going to have family and friends near at hand and she is giving herself permission to be upset at times.

Molly is not going to let her pain change her traditions. In fact she is going to add a new ritual or two. One of them will be a toast to Felix at dinner on Christmas Day.


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Anniversary Grief
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Denis works with couples and individuals. His areas of interest include marriage, grief and stress. He also counsels people who suffer from depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as those struggling with personal growth issues.

Denis is eclectic in his use of psychological approaches, which include Adlerian, cognitive/behavioural, systems, psychodynamic, brief solution focused, existential and emotionally focused therapies.

Denis is a popular speaker who presents talks and workshops on a variety of topics including marriage, grief, retirement, emotional maturity and family relationships. He has published a book titled, “Marriage Can Be Great!…no really.”

Denis was a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He helped to start the first hospice program in B.C. in 1975.

Denis received his Master of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia in 1977 and works as a Registered Psychologist. He is a member of the B.C. College of Psychologists and the B.C. Psychological Association.

Most importantly Denis has been married to Maureen for over thirty years and they have four children.

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