Making Meaning of the Madness

Chapter 10

Anniversaries: Having a Plan

One place less set at the table

Journal: Apr '95

The eighteenth of every month, Sunday mornings, significant holiday dates, Jeff's birthday, all cause problems. Especially during the first two years, any date with particular memories or symbols caused heightened emotions. Through Carol's initiative, we discovered that if we formulated a plan going into certain occasions, we usually got through them with reduced anxiety. Along with forming plans we learned to anticipate some ambushes, thereby reducing our chances of breaking down privately or in public. We certainly didn't escape all situations, but we were successful in reducing their numbers.

Some plans are as simple as on Sunday mornings lighting the votive candle that was on the altar during Jeff's memorial. Others, like getting ready for his birthday (which coincided with Easter the first year), are more complex and sometimes involve several people. We gather our children with us and very close friends and engage in symbolic activities for the occassion. Sometimes we share a meal; sometimes we go for a hike; sometimes we plant flowering bushes and shrubs.

Your birthday, Jeff. Actually a good day-much easier on us than anticipated. Planted some trees and rose bushes. Bob, Rose, Jeff K., Kim, Bruce. Nice meal after the tension was broken by a toast. Everyone very aware of one place less set at the table. Too many confusing emotions to write any more.

Journal: Apr '95

Another anniversary today, Jeff. I don't know why we survivors place such significance on dates, but there is little question we do, and some are significantly worse than others. Your Mom had a surprise, embarrassing cry attack today. She was in a friend's gift shop when a young woman brought in her new baby to show the shop owner. That really set her off.

Journal: Apr '95

The day was actually pretty good. We made some changes, Jeff, like no stockings and we cut down on the gifts. Bob was here again for support as was Bruce with Katie. What a sweetie. Having a child in our midst really helped. I wonder if Bruce understood that would be the case? We stayed at Madrona. Beautiful scenery and weather so we got in our long walk on the beach. The emotional level was generally up-beat and positive. Good for all of us.

Journal: Dec '95

The other significant event I want to mention involves our first New Year's Eve, just days after Jeff died. It had been planned for months that some good friends would come out from the prairie to spend a three day holiday with us on the beach at a resort on Vancouver Island. Thankfully they did not change their plans, which under the circumstances, would have been understandable. We went ahead with shucking a pail of oysters and cooking them over an open fire on the beach, mulling some wine and generally enjoying each other's companionship. The preparations and close company helped to distract and warm all of us.

Of course, plans are not foolproof as witnessed by the incident in the gift shop, but generally we find them extremely helpful. It is usually our experience that the emotional build-up to the date is rougher than the date itself, especially if we have given some thought about how to occupy ourselves. Victims often feel alone and frightened enough without having those feelings exacerbated by being caught unprepared on anniversary dates.

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