SAME TIME AS LAST YEAR
But Entirely Different
from Grief Expressed: When Your Mate Dies

I don't want my birthday this year! Joe always did such thoughtful things. But he died two weeks ago. How do I face my birthday and all those other special days without him?

MY BIRTHDAY. I planned the day -- breakfast out, browsing time in the library, a haircut and new style, birthday lunch at the nicest restaurant in town (with my book), and the purchase of a birthday gift (a padded cover for my exercise bike). The telephone was ringing when I got home. Friends near and far called with best wishes. In between calls I read the cards and letters I had saved. Missing Joe hit hard at bedtime, and it felt good to cry. I survived.

HIS BIRTHDAY. Anticipating that his birthday would be harder than mine, I had chosen this time for my friend to come from out of state. We went to Joe's favorite Mexican restaurant, where we toasted him with margaritas. I kept thinking, "The only way out is through." In between the tears I talked constantly about Joe, and my friend listened. I ordered his old standby meal. It seemed as if he should be sitting there in the booth with us. It hurt, but I'm glad we went.

OUR ANNIVERSARY. For months I dreaded the day. Should I pretend that it was any other day or plow right through the grief I felt? I chose to make it special and remember. My son agreed to go with me to the lovely restaurant where Joe and I had celebrated our anniversary many times. As the waitress got closer to the drapery-drawn private booth, I wanted to shout, "No, that booth is Joe's and mine!" I couldn't believe that we could sit through that long meal (in the booth that Joe and I always asked for), swap stories about Joe that the other had not heard, and not feel sad. Sometimes we laughed. Before going to bed that night, I read the cards that Joe had saved. They confirmed that I had told him over and over how much he meant to me. The day I had dreaded so much had turned out to be both beautiful and special.

THANKSGIVING. I took care of this holiday by working at the Salvation Army serving dinner to needy persons. Joe and I had talked about doing this but we never did. I worked this year for both of us.

CHRISTMAS. I knew I couldn't stay in our home for Christmas that first year withouut Joe. After my "have to" list was done, I ran away to Hot Springs Arkansas, and stayed for three days in a hotel. I indulged myself in the famous thermal baths and got a massage. A Christmas Eve service on TV and telephone time with my family on Christmas Day was all of the holiday that I could handle. The rest of the time I read, cried, and ate chocolates. I allowed Christmas to flow around me that year. It was the best that I could do.

Summary Statement: For each special day I need to determine what I can and cannot handle. Then I plan, plan, plan. Dreading the days does not help and may be unwarranted. Each special day that I survive helps me to face the next one. I will start new rituals and traditions.

Answer the following:

How I handled or will handle:

Birthdays • Our Anniversary • Thanksgiving • Other Holidays • Special Days

Summary Statement:

 

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