Immediately following the death of a partner nothing you do or feel will seem normal. Every step you take will be out of the ordinary and your sense of loss will be painful and alienating.
Conversely, you may have moments of relief, especially if your partner has been ill and suffering and this could bring about a sense of guilt. The feeling we could or should have done more for our partner is also a common sentiment. All of these feelings are new to you and will inevitably bring about despair and remorse. At this time you must go with the ebb and flow of emotions until such a time as you recognize them and know you will overcome the moment.
Almost immediately there are key days and dates that follow: the early reminders, of course, like the day your partner died and the day of the funeral. These days are the ones you recall frequently because they are the most recent. They also bring you together with your partner, in a visceral sense. The heartache at these moments is welcome because it allows you the luxury of tears and reflection.
Life goes on and for practical reasons you bury your heartache in a place where it is increasingly under control. Hopefully, you will gradually allow yourself the comfort of celebrating these anniversaries in some way. Visiting his/her memorial and leaving flowers is, of course, something you can do. A moment of quiet reflection at this time can work wonders. You’re allowed the tears, but hopefully, by now, you’re able to resurrect moments of joy and amusement that were shared with your partner.
A significant anniversary, such as a birthday, can be celebrated by indulging in something you would have planned to mark this day. You could go with your family to a favorite restaurant you both liked. Maybe watch a football game or go to the theatre. Something you would have enjoyed together is the idea.
Inevitably, the most difficult will be the anniversary of your wedding, or the day you moved in together. This is a good opportunity to involve friends and family and is, after all, a special day you want to remember with warmth and happiness. A small gathering for you and those closest to you is a good way to do this and will encourage everyone to talk about your partner and how they’re coping with their loss and moving on.
Mothers or Fathers Day can be difficult for your children whether they’re young or old. Urge them to talk about the absent parent and share your thoughts as well. Seek out some golden moments you all remember, like the day he was showing off in the snow and fell off the sled, or the special cake you baked for a birthday and which was unfortunately dropped on the floor.
Eventually the year will have come full circle and you will be a survivor. You will have discovered you can live your life without that special person and each day you’re learning how to overcome the emotional hurdles you encounter. These hurdles do become less frequent and your strength and resilience will grow.
This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.