There’s a particular date in November that I dread every year and if you’ve ever suffered a significant loss or gone through a traumatic experience, you’ll understand why. It’s a date that you don’t want to recognise, an anniversary that you certainly won’t celebrate and a marker in time that doesn’t deserve the description of special or meaningful because you would rather that the event it marks had never happened at all. For me it was the loss of my son.
But it’s a date that can’t be skipped over so each year I’m left wondering how to get through it. Should I try to ignore it and go to work as if it was any other day? Should I stay at home and hide under the duvet? Should I find a way to commemorate my son’s life and if so, should it be subtle or something on a grander scale? There is no correct answer other than doing whatever suits me and my daughter best and that can change from year to year. I’ve deliberately avoided starting a tradition that risks being broken one year and I try not to worry about what other people might think, I’m pretty sure the only person judging me is myself. Why add to the pressure of what is already an tough day?
It’s strange to think that this one particular date once meant nothing to me. I could have flicked through a calendar and not even paused on that day of that month but now I don’t even need to check the diary to know that date is approaching. My mood changes and I can almost feel myself tensing up.
I try to rationalise my feelings by telling myself it won’t be as bad as I think. I’ve survived enough of these anniversaries to know that more often than not the build-up is far worse than the day itself and yet it still fills me with dread. The problem is that I can remember so clearly that pain I felt all of those years ago; I live with echoes of it every day; and I’m scared it might suddenly resurface. And it’s true to say that occasionally my grief does catch me out, just not necessarily on that day or with any kind of warning at all. But even though my grief doesn’t observe dates on a calendar, I’m afraid I do. And that’s why one day every year when I wake up I can sense the day holding its breath until the sun goes down with a sigh of relief.