I am very poor at remembering dates. I probably know only about a dozen birthdays and a handful of anniversaries outside my immediate family. It’s not my gift to remember such things. But it is for some people. My Grandpa Walt, for example, was a vault for significant dates. He remembered everybody’s birthday, anniversary, the date they moved into a new house. These are happy dates. He also remembered dates related to his service in World War II – when he went to basic training, the date bombs were dropped on Japan (as he was en route on the Pacific Ocean), the date he got home. Not all of these are happy anniversaries, or at minimum bittersweet and complicated.
Maybe you have some unhappy anniversaries as well. I have a couple. Two years ago on September 29, we nearly lost my mom or believed we were after getting a terrifying middle-of-the-night phone call. What followed was the fastest trip down I-70 I’ve ever taken, lots of praying, emergency brain surgery, ICU, and a difficult six months of chemo and radiation. Some of that time was really hard. It was really hard on her. And it was hard on our family. I can’t help but think about what I was doing two years ago around this time.
Maybe you have some not-so-happy anniversaries. Traumas such as the death of a loved one, car accident, divorce, or illness. Some clients I work with have difficulties with anniversaries. They say things like “this is the month my baby would have been born” or “the last week of May is hard because that’s when we lost my brother.” When these anniversaries are causing impairment in work or social functioning, therapy can help a person to sort out their feelings, process grief, and develop new coping skills. They might remember the anniversary in new ways – an annual balloon release or picnic, for example. It can be a time to draw together with others who share in the not-so-happy anniversary.
If you struggle with a not-so-happy anniversary, know that you are in good company. There is hope for moving forward. The anniversary will always be significant, but your ability to to manage the not-so-happy anniversaries can improve.