AUTHOR : Lauren Smith
This anniversary marked four years without Jake.
It feels like a lifetime in ways… four years since I heard his voice, four years since I hugged him, four years since I could tell him I loved him. In other ways though, I remember the day like it was yesterday. Time is funny like that.
For me, the anniversary of his passing is more than a singular day. October is a tough month all round. My mind and my body remember and re-live so much.
For context, my husband had been fighting an aggressive cancer for 10 months before he passed. October began with hope – hope that the latest treatment had worked.
Very quickly, that hope dissipated as we watched him deteriorate over a long weekend and then on the 8th October, we had the hardest conversation of our lives – there was no more treatment available.
Despite it being the hardest conversation, we were blessed with a deep sense of peace. Grateful for the peace we felt, the next 11 days looked like us treasuring every moment we had left together, soaking in special moments with friends and family and making sure Jake was as comfortable as possible. It also looked like me being on high alert constantly, lying awake all night listening to his breathing, looking after him as his needs increased each day, but wanting to help him keep his dignity as long as possible.
He then passed away on the 19th October.
Now, when October rolls around, I find that my whole body experiences grief and re-lives trauma in a deep way.
As soon as October hits, my body is tense, I become quite emotional at the drop of a hat, I experience flashbacks and a prolonged feeling of “holding my breath” sets in until the 19th.
It’s a tricky thing to juggle real life responsibilities (work, study, friends, events) and hold space for grief. Society seems to allow us grace for one day on the anniversary but that’s about it.
After navigating this cycle for a few years, the things that help me are scaling all my commitments back in October, lowering my expectations on myself for the month, letting myself
cry when I need to instead of bottling it up, and taking myself away around the 19th to ensure I have space away from normal responsibilities to process grief and hold space for the emotions.
On the actual day, it’s not unusual for me to feel quite numb and not sure what to do with myself, I think that’s the impact of having anticipated the day for the whole month.
The day after a grief anniversary I usually feel like I have been hit by a bus physically and mentally, I suppose it’s an emotional hangover from the past few weeks. I try to plan for that and take the day easy.
From my perspective, these are the things that others do that help…
1. I love it when people talk about and share stories about Jake. It reminds me that he’s not forgotten.
2. I love seeing or hearing of people honouring him in their own ways – going to his favourite place, eating his favourite food, having a drink in his honour.
3. Receiving flowers is always a nice thing, it reminds me that I’m not forgotten.
4. Supportive friends and family who let me know they were thinking of me but text rather than call, so I could focus on looking after my heart and emotions and respond later.
From my perspective, these are the things that others have done that do not help…
1. Asked me to commit to things on the anniversary.
2. People who haven’t spoken to me in years decide to message on that day and hold expectations for a response. It’s one of the only days in the year where I really only have capacity for my own emotions.
3. Close friends of mine and Jake’s who forget entirely.
4. People imposing timelines/expectations on my grief.
Grief is something you learn to carry, but it never goes away.
It’s important to remember that grief isn’t bad – it’s usually just love with nowhere to go.
Hold space for that when you need to. ❤️🌺