Why It’s Okay to Grieve on the Anniversary of a Loved One’s Death

The number 16 will never be the same for me again.

It used to be a number that reminded me of a birthday. It brought me back to memories of a huge celebration, boy craziness, and mad awkward sex.

Now it reminds me that there’s a 16th in every month. It doesn’t remind me of an age, it reminds me of a day. It reminds me of violent screams, blinding blue and red ambulance lights, and the smell of chlorine.

For a long time, each time the date rolled around to the number 16, I would drag through the day with an anxious belly and a head full of tears. What was it? Was my pain really that much worse on the 16th than it was on the 15th?

No, of course not, but I somehow allowed myself to feel everything that I had been feeling in the weeks leading up to it, on that day. And I know I’m not the only one who did it that way.

Sometimes our grief can’t be processed as clearly on other days. We hear the date, we see the date, and the number just shatters us from the inside out.

We’ve learned that in order to keep on living, there needs to be some sort of a division between life and grief. Our pain is masked with morning alarms, busy schedules, work, friends, and keeping busy.

When the number rolls around – the day that our loved one had died – it comes back to us so vividly; memories engulf our minds, anything and everything reminds us of them, and just like that, we’re broken and destroyed all over again.

And then the dreaded year comes back – the date that we’ve been fearing the most all along. The second you open your eyes that morning, you know. You know that it’s been exactly one year since you’ve seen their face, touched their hand, heard their laugh, and felt their joy.

On the morning of “my day” I cried in bed for hours and hours, replaying every memory from the event itself. The thing is, we’d probably all wake up like that each morning, but there comes a time when we decide to live again.

Living again doesn’t mean eventually forgetting. Because we both know that we’ll never forget.

We save up our pain until the anniversary when we’re allowed to be at an explosive level of emotions. Because it’s easier to manage all of that grief in one 24 hour span than it is to everyday, right?

It won’t make sense to most people. It might not make sense to anyone, really. But you get it. And I get it. And on “your day” I know that you’ll be flooded with emotions. You’ll drown in your happy memories together and you’ll be swamped with questions that can’t be answered. And that’s okay.

The only thing we can do, though, is keep on living.

It’s the way our loved one – the one who is floating in the air, who is in every kiss we give, fluttering inside our hearts when we share our love – would want it to be.

Wants it to be.

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