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16 July 2003

Getting through those difficult anniversaries

If your husband, wife or another family member has recently died, you will know with what trepidation you view the weekly, monthly or annual anniversary of their death.

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If your husband, wife or another family member has recently died, you will know with what trepidation you view the weekly, monthly or annual anniversary of their death.

You relive the grim events in sequence and sometimes it is almost as if it happened to you all over again.

“Other occasions, which are difficult to deal with, are birthdays and family events, such as Christmas and New Year,” says Hilary Dodds, social worker and Head of Bereavement Care at St Luke’s Hospice in Kenilworth, Cape Town.

“Often the anticipation of the day is worse than the day itself,” she says. “Our society is mostly rather devoid of meaningful ritual surrounding issues like the death of a loved one. Muslims have a ceremony 40 days and 100 days after someone has died, which is a healthy thing to do. In the Jewish religion a headstone is raised for the deceased a year after they died, which also turns the anniversary into a commemorating event.

When asked for advice on how to make these anniversaries and special days easier, the following suggestions were made:

  • Talk about your feelings to friends and family. Some of them might be experiencing similar feelings
  • Mark the occasion in some way.
  • Have a family meal or visit a place that was important to the deceased, or have some ceremony that you find meaningful. Don’t let the day pass unnoticed.
  • Talk about the deceased. Get out family photograph albums and reminisce. Talk about good times you all had together.
 
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