5 Ways Through Painful Anniversaries
This year is not last year.
I keep telling myself that as I approach the first anniversary of my separation from my husband. I admit I have experienced all the same feelings that I did around that time. Sleeplessness, irritability, nightmares, loss of appetite, and the general formation of lies that came with the loss in the first place.
As the holidays approach I find myself doing a lot of mental pacing, which leads to physical pacing. I'll pick up the same coffee mug and move it to three different places in my house, certain I'm being productive with each new placement, and yet accomplishing nothing at all.
I sit down to read and after thirty minutes I realize I've read and re-read the same pages several times and retained nothing. I try to write and find myself either not making any sense, or typing the same sentence eighteen different ways and being satisfied with none of it. I take my dog on a hike and while the fresh air is helpful, the exercise certainly beneficial, I still feel a heaviness that I can't seem to shake or pray away.
Still, these are some things I have found to be helpful:
1. Prepare. I knew the end of October through New Years Eve was going to be difficult. Last year I lost my home, one of my closest friends, my husband, and all the dreams that went with my marriage in that span of time. I made a mental note that the feelings from those months may return and if they do, to acknowledge them, recognize that they're memories and not reality. I was going to need to have the hand of God in mine in order to make it through, so I started digging in deep in the Word, more than usual, and more intentionally, every morning.
2. Remember it's Temporary. Nothing lasts forever, and even the most painful and worst episodes of panic and depression do come to an end. Every trigger fades. Every memory comes and goes. Nothing stays permanent. At the same time, I'm learning that some things simply can't be rushed. Sometimes the most helpful thing is to do nothing and allow what is to simply be. The only rock is Jesus, and in times of temporary turmoil, He can help us keep our feet on solid ground.
3. Be Intentional. I have to plan two to three days a week where I'm spending time with people who love me. If I don't get that time, I find myself sliding very quickly into depression and even despair. It's a lot harder to pull yourself out of it once you're in it, so do what you know you can do to help keep your mind on the positive; on reality and not your perception of it. I also make time to go into the mountains and hike with my dog. Seeing God keeping things alive like trees and bushes and birds reminds me that He'll keep me going, too. If He has a plan for their lifespan, He has a plan for mine.
4. Don't Dwell. Acknowledge painful memories, but don't suck the marrow out of them. I stumbled across a memory on Facebook of my ex-husband and I on some vacation. It led me to a six-minute wedding video we had professionally made. I watched the video only once, but the rest of the day I couldn't get the images of how happy I'd been, and how deceived I really was. The dwelling did nothing but lead me down some dark avenues. Note to self: stop it.
5. Get Support. You need at least one person you can call or reach out to when you're in the pit. This is one of the most difficult things for me to do, but I'm learning. Even if it's something as simple as asking a friend to just talk to you about their day. It gets your mind out of your junk. Even if all you do is join a friend on a grocery shopping errand - at least you're out of the house. Perhaps you end up on the phone for three hours doing little more than crying. It's something. The worst thing you can do is be alone in a season of painful memories due to a difficult anniversary. Sit with someone. You don't have to be alone. Above all, sit with Jesus.
This year is not last year - but the feelings can make it seem that way. Just remember that this year is an opportunity to create new memories, no matter how small. It doesn't mean you neglect the memory, ignore the loss, or act as if it never happened. It simply means you ride the wave as it comes and goes and have grace on yourself in the process.
Aim for the light, let the love of Jesus in, and watch Him walk you through it.