Friday, July 31, 2009

Surviving 'Anniversary Reactions'

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Are there anniversaries that you remember, days that are are very personal and unique to you? The diagnosis of an illness, the date of an accident, injury?

The date that a crime took place or a legal situation came to a conclusion? The date of any kind of loss or change -- a divorce or separation, the loss of your home, your wedding anniversary after you're divorced. The death of a loved one.

How about a beginning of sorts? The start of a diet or date reaching a goal weight? Five years cancer-free. Many of these events can be life-changing and may somehow live in our DNA and bring about what's called the Anniversary Reaction.

"Do you remember where you were when..." Some may be one-time events, the wedding day of an ex, for instance. Each September 11th many people mark the date in their own personal way.

I have a line of jewelry based on Transitions. One necklace is called What Would Mother Do? The letters WWMD are spelled out in Morse code.

Otherwise relatively happy occasions such as holidays, especially considering the traditions associated with these times, can leave people feeling sad and stressed. What were once other happy occasions, such as wedding anniversaries and birthdays, can now be disconcerting.

you no longer part of a couple having that anniversary? Is part of the family missing? Is someone very ill? How do you deal with this?Family and friends of the person who's going or has been through the event may not be sure of how to help. Working through the feelings, 'putting one foot in front of the other' you will get through it, but there are things to do that may help make the process easier.

The National Center for The Victims of Crime has a site, Coping with Holidays, Anniversaries and Other Important Dates, with very good information for anyone having difficulty getting through something like a holiday or family gatherings after a life-changing situation.

In the future, I'm going to look at different ways that people remember, ways we can commemorate, celebrate, acknowledge and maybe feel somewhat back some control.

These are just some of the ideas I've accumulated by researching what others are doing. What works for one person may not work for someone else and there's no place for judging in your process.

Try creating a journal, shrine, scrapbook or some other form of artwork. There are many beautiful journals out there.
Light candles. Talk to a counselor, support group, friend or arrange for time alone. Take a walk or take a trip. Listen to or create music. Watch a drama and have a good cry. Watch a comedy and have a good laugh. The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection has five of their films on DVD.

Create your own one-time or annual ritual or ceremony. Get a tattoo. You may choose to wear a significant color, a piece of clothing or jewelry, something that's symbolic. Fly a kite or blow bubbles. Clean out a closet, donate your time to help others, make a donation to a charity.

In Harpo Speaks! one of my all-time favorites, Harpo Marx, lists what were his House Rules. I typed them out years ago and have had them up on our living room for over 20 years now. Here's a little bit:
"If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world's against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of something crazier to do, do it. Don't worry about what other people think. The only person in the world important enough to conform to is yourself."

These 'anniversary reactions' are experienced by people every day but still aren't talked about that much. It's sometimes expected that a wedding will take a year to plan, but you are supposed to 'get over' a loss in a very short time. I think that finding a balance can help to make life easier and can help see what others are going through, too.

Objects and Memory was a program on PBS. In part, as their web site says, the program also explored "
the need to keep and offer meaningful objects in the context of other traumatic national events and memorials." People often collect or keep objects that mean or represent something to them after a loss or an event.

The Mayo Clinic has an article about grief and coping with reminders after a loss.

I welcome anyone's suggestions for what they do when a significant date rolls around and will try to feature suggestions in upcoming blog posts. We can all help each other. Thanks.

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