The End Is Near. Or Is It?

January 18, 2013

Deathiversary. Scaryversary. Angelversary. I’ve heard many names for the dreaded date of loss. Regardless, I don’t want to be here admitting how much of a drain I feel right now as I approach the one year mark of Dave’s death. And it is still almost a month away.

Dave died February 15, the day after Valentine’s Day. And you know, as soon as New Year’s Day is passed, the ubiquitous red hearts come out on all the retail shelves. I just put that together. Seasonally, I have a great reminder that Dave’s death date is the next in line for “celebration.”


Love.  Hearts. Heartbreak.

I’m OK that the date is tied to Valentine’s Day for me. I’m just feeling tired right now. I want-to-sleep-all-the-time tired. I know it’s the weight of the one year mark. I don’t think it would matter what day of the year it lands on or near. We can attach meaning to any date. It’s the end of the first year.

This date in particular calls out to be noted. I’d like to be able to ignore it, or wash it away (tears?) or maybe pretend it doesn’t matter, but it does. If I am still a month away and feeling this burden how will I slog my way through? Why is this pulling me down? Now.

I have to look at this moment in context. January and February, even March, are difficult, dark months in the Northwest in spite of the passing of the winter solstice and a promise for longer days. The rain and cold and fog keep a literal cloud on top of us. This time of year I am usually and anxiously yearning for warmth and sun and change of scenery. I remember now that I often declare a willingness to pay the higher heating costs in order to open the shades throughout the house and bring in the natural light.

It is easy to hole up. Keep the shades down. Stay inside. Work from home. Climb in bed. Not answer the phone. Be invisible. Maybe too easy.

Change is hard. Even when change has all sorts of reward and goodness and excitement attached to it, it is still hard. Our brain ruts are deeply carved. Moving the wheels of life onto a new road meets resistance. This deep rut of a life, memory and habit of my time with Dave has been traveled for decades. I find that I keep getting pulled back into the wish for being on the old road.

This “end of the first year” feels associated with all sorts of predictions – time to move on; get over it; the second year is worse. As a widow I have those other symbolic wonders — do I remove my wedding rings, empty the closets, change the décor, even date? I know the answer for me: Nah! Do I hold on ferociously to the image of a widow in black to be pitied and victim to the “Life sucks” mantra? Nah, I’ve not adopted that one at all. Yet the thoughts cross my mind because “what does the outside world think?” Should I feel a certain way? A large part of me doesn’t care what the outside world thinks! But I read it all the time. I hear it all the time. I understand that many people are directly confronted with well meaning directives for living a better life after loss. I absorb these social cues, too.

There is no magic about the end of the first year. Like a birthday you don’t suddenly feel one year older when the day arrives. You have evolved.

The angst over the first year anniversary began for me about what to do on that day. Do I plan something at home, away or related to the original service? What do the kids wants? What healing is still needed? Who am I to fix it for us? What do I want, or need? What does this year mark for everyone else? Ultimately I’ve concluded that “I don’t do funerals.” So why would I want to focus on this loss date, as I prefer to celebrate his life and love? I don’t have any problem remembering about the day he died. It is etched in my mind, and sometimes a day I’d just as soon remove some of the images.

I have one more month of the first year. In many ways I am ready to be over this milestone. I want it behind me not in front of me. The relentless paradoxes of feelings, the roller coaster of grief, can make anyone crazy. I know eventually the ride will slow, smooth out and end in its own way. My grief won’t be abruptly stopped with the one year anniversary of Dave’s death. It will be what it is when I get there.

Until then, I shall go open all the window shades and let in the light that is today.


2 replies
  1. Kate Wall
    Kate Wall says:

    Dear Joan,
    Have been thinking of you and Leah a fair amount this week for the obvious reasons.
    Here’s one more marker. Dave died the day after my birthday. Pretty wild.
    I’ve been following your blog on his/the family’s site and this one for the past year. Although I haven’t been widowed, I ‘ve quietly marked another anniversary for the last 17 years.
    My dad died exactly a week before my birthday. 17 years ago this year.
    What I’ve noticed in that time is how much he taught me about people and relationships in regard to medicine without overtly teaching. He taught a program at the USC medical school called Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) for 25 years. Basically, it was teching medical students how to interview patients and to look at their lives holistically (radical stuff when it started in the ’60s). 17 years later and I’m still “learning” his legacy.
    It’s not every day or every month, but I’m always surprised when I realize I’ve been doing or saying something I know I picked up from my father.
    I,too, have missed Dave this last year. I so dearly would have loved to hear his take on the primaries and the election rhetoric. Some of the other social/political “goodies” probably would have had him ranting (for good reason) and I missed that perspective.
    I hope you didn’t hold your breath today, thinking there may be some kind of thunderbolt of grief or revelation or who-knows-what. Though grief is personal, I found myself laughing more about some of my dad’s foibles and quirks with good, close friends of his after he died than before.
    And that was a relief and comfort all its own.

    • Joan H
      Joan H says:

      Hi Kate,
      Thank you for your words of wisdom… and Happy Birthday! I have yet to figure out how I am right now but as soon as I know I’m sure the words will flow again. For now I am just enjoying some warm breezes away from the normal homestead as my chosen way for navigating this anniversary.


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