You are probably well aware that your sad feelings don’t automatically end once your divorce completes. Many memories still linger. Many experiences need to be over written. It takes time to move through them. While you’re rewriting your experiences, reminders of what you’ve lost can pop up at the most inopportune times. They can be inopportune when you feel perfectly happy, out with friends, or at busy at work when something triggers a memory and the floodgates of emotion open up again.

Grief Reminders Can Be Anywhere

Even if you are set up in a new life you love grief may come around again— sometimes even years later. Feelings of grief might return on the date of your wedding anniversary, birthdays, holidays, or other special days throughout the year. These feelings, sometimes called an anniversary reaction, aren’t a setback in your grieving process. They merely reflect things that were, and continue to be, important to you. I’ve often said if it didn’t matter it wouldn’t hurt. But it did matter, and it does hurt.

Reminders aren’t just tied to the calendar, either. They can be tied to sights, sounds and smells—and they can ambush you. You might suddenly be flooded with emotions when you smell a certain perfume, pass a neighborhood BBQ, or hear “your song” on the radio. Although they hurt and you wonder why it still matters, you can view them as reminders that you’re alive, that you have a heart, and that you once gave yourself permission to love.

What to Expect When Grief Returns

Anniversary reactions can last from a few moments to several days. During an anniversary reaction you might experience:

  • Sadness
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Fatigue
  • Revisiting other losses from times gone by

Grief Takes Time

Some memories are deeply rooted and they need time to surface and release. Thankfully we don’t have to experience all of our loss feelings at once. The best thing you can do for yourself is to refrain from making up stories about how you should be over it by now, or you shouldn’t be crying this many weeks/months/years later. Resolving these difficult emotions takes as long as it takes. You are not in a race. It is not a contest. Your feelings are showing up for healing. Allow them that.

Anniversary Reactions

Have you experienced any anniversary reactions?

  • Where were you?
  • Who was present?
  • What triggered it?
  • And most importantly, were you able to be gentle with yourself?

This may be a good time to journal your ponderings around those questions.

If a surprise reaction takes you by surprise and you need a little help, call me. That’s what I’m here for.