Last week I was feeling very low. I couldn’t figure out why until I looked at the calendar. It turns out that last Tuesday was the anniversary of a very difficult event at work (some of you may recall that I had a difficult series of events related to my job in 2013). I wasn’t consciously aware of it, but on some level, my brain and my psyche knew. It was actually a relief to figure out that there was a real reason why I felt so down.
Life brings with it lots of wonderful events, such as our kids’ birthdays, which we celebrate with joy each year. But there are also sad dates that can evoke intense feelings of sadness and pain. On the anniversary of the date that each of my parents passed away, I am transported back to that day, even though my father died 25 years ago and my mother died almost 10 years ago. I remember the horrible phone call, and the flurry of activity immediately after. I remember the deep sadness and sense of loss, particularly when my dad died, because it was very sudden and unexpected and he was only 60.
I remember the dates my various dogs died, and those are tough days, too. One of my dogs died in my arms as I was driving him to the vet after noticing he was having trouble breathing. I had no idea he was so ill, thinking it was just a cold. It was such a shock, but I was glad I was holding him when he passed on (instead of coming home from work and finding him dead). Another one had to be put to sleep because her kidneys were failing. We had deluded ourselves into thinking that she might get better with treatment, even though she was 17 years old. Finally, she made it clear it was her time to find peace and relief from discomfort. I was left with aching regret that I had put her through a week or so of hydration treatment at the vet’s office because I wasn’t ready to let her go. Another one of my dogs was hit by a car in 1982 and when January comes around, I still get sad because he was really my baby before I had children.
Most of the time, we can try to prepare for these sad anniversaries and treat ourselves kindly when we end up spending a few days feeling bad, but sometimes they do sneak up on us. It’s important to let others in on what’s going on once you figure it out. I have found that most people are instantly sympathetic and even comforting when they understand why we are hurting. It’s unfair to keep it private because it confuses others and deprives our friends of a chance to show how much they care.
I was lucky to have my husband and my dear friend go out of their way to be supportive and compassionate once I realized what was going on last week. There was no “Get over it!” or “What’s done is done, it’s over now, move on,” thank goodness. I have heard that many times in my life from less sensitive relatives and friends. It’s such a terrible thing to say because everyone’s timetable for “getting over it” is different. Some people never get over it. It can be debilitating and unhealthy if it never lifts, but I think everyone is certainly entitled to a year or two to sort out these complicated feelings of loss and pain.
Sorry to be such a downer this week. My real message is to encourage everyone to take the time to observe our loved ones to see if they are acting differently than they usually do, and to reach out to them as best you can. Not everyone is comfortable with asking about someone else’s difficult experience, but I think the person who is hurting will let you know if they don’t want to talk about it. If they do, though, you will have done a great kindness for your friend or relative. Don’t be afraid to care.