There are all kinds of wonderful anniversaries we get to celebrate through the year and we all seem to be pretty good about how to do that. Sadly, anniversaries of sad, hard times are also very real. Here are some ideas for ways to help people going through those tough days or times or year.
So. Not to start out with a downer or anything, but today is the one year anniversary of what should have been my due date with our fourth baby.
That news will either strike you as very sad or make you think, “seriously, JL, can we stop talking about it?” Actually, this post has very little to do with me or how I’m feeling or any of that. It just happened to be a good day (in my mind) to talk about this particular topic:
those horrible, terrible, no-good anniversaries that bring pain
There are innumerable sorts of anniversaries that are hard:
- days miscarriages occurred
- days that should have been due dates
- days babies were still-born
- days relatives were lost
- days marriages came crashing down
- … etc.
No one has a corner of the market on sad memories. We all have those days that are tougher than others. Those dates that serve as triggers. There’s a very good chance there are at least a few people in your life for whom you know certain dates or times of year are tough. Here are some ideas for ways to reach out to them:
Mark the date down.
I know that sounds morbid. I know you think you’ll remember. The thing is– you’re busy, too. And, while you care deeply for your friend, a day that holds deep significance for her might wind up being just a chaotic Wednesday for you. Put it on the calendar, even if it’s just a little code to remind you. For the person who’s swamped in despair, it can be particularly hard when it feels like everyone around is just carrying on as if nothing happened. Having it written down will help make sure you don’t inadvertently ignore a day that is hard on your friend.
Last year, right around when we should have been welcoming another precious baby, I received flowers from a good, long-distance friend. I received a couple of cards. Those meant so much to me. It doesn’t even have to be that involved, though. I had someone I thought “barely knew” me on Twitter send me a quick, thoughtful direct message. I had a friend give me a quick call. Knowing that people both remembered and acknowledged my pain made me feel a little less alone or crazy as I went through another little phase of mourning.
Don’t expect her to “get over it.”
There is no expiration date or cut-off time on grief. Some people may seem to bounce back quickly. Others might struggle for a long time. Those who are doing great? Might all of a sudden hit a really rough patch. This is just how emotions work and they’re nothing to be ashamed of.
You may wonder why, five years after a miscarriage, a woman is still fighting tears on a certain date. You may think a couple who lost a child but has gone on to have three other healthy babies should be able to rise above the pain. But, here’s the thing– joy and pain are two different emotions that can absolutely coexist. Being sad and needing to a mourn a bit does not mean that she doesn’t also “count her blessings.” Allow her whatever time is needed to process the pain.
Don’t “compete” over tragedies.
This seems to be a uniquely female dynamic and I honestly think it stems from good intentions. We women tend to be communicative and that’s a very good thing. We also like to share and relate, when possible, and that can also be helpful. When it becomes not so helpful, however, is when we wind up diminishing one another’s struggles– sort of, “I see your tragedy and I raise you one.”
She miscarried once and you miscarried four times? I get it. Your pain is real and intense too, and you are entitled to it. Just try not to minimize her suffering in the process. You’re probably just trying to convey that you can relate– and that can be SO helpful. Just try to ensure she knows you get that she’s hurting, too. It’s not a contest. And thank heavens for that.
What is your advice for reaching out to those facing difficult anniversaries?