The First Year After the Death of a Loved One

You cannot know what is in store for you during your grief journey. It is different for each of us. But there are resources to assist you through each step.It’s important to remember grieving does not “turn off” after one year. Time does not erase the past, but it does provide the space to think about your loved one, heal from the loss, and find meaning.

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other reminders, although painful at first, do become easier. These important dates can become opportunities to revisit the happy memories that made your loved one special, and to create memorial traditions. Prior to upcoming “special dates” (and approaching the first anniversary of your loved one’s death), it may be helpful for you to keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules regarding grieving the death of a loved one. Yet it may be helpful to be prepared for what grief counselors refer to as “anniversary grief”.

It is not unusual for people to experience behavioral changes for days or even weeks before and after the first anniversary of special occasions without their loved one. Withdrawal, angry outbursts, crying spells, overwhelming sadness, lack of attention to detail, loss of interest in school or work activities are fairly common. Plan for the anniversaries of special occasions. It may be helpful to know that many people find that the anticipation of the anniversary day can be worse than the actual day. As you anticipate the anniversary, you can bring comfort and healing into this day. Plan what you are going to do ahead of time, even if you plan to be alone, and set yourself up for a “good day.” Let your friends and relatives know in advance what your needs are and how they may be able to help.

You can celebrate the life of your loved one. The first anniversaries of special occasions after your loved one’s death are special opportunities for recognizing your loss. You have not only lost the presence of your loved one, but all of their gifts: the laughter, the love, the shared past and qualities you treasured. Creating a positive ritual, either alone or shared with others, can give support, healing and meaning to the death anniversary. Such rituals may include visiting a special place your loved one enjoyed or something as simple as lighting a candle.

It may be helpful to join a support group after the death of your loved one. Meeting and talking with others who are living through some of the same experiences can be very therapeutic. The happiness you experienced with your loved one belongs to you forever. Hold on to those rich memories, and give thanks for the life of the person you’ve lost.

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