Surviving the anniversary

Celebrate? Commemorate? Commiserate?

How do you respond to an anniversary that’s no longer joyous? Over the last three years I have established that the best course is to simply acknowledge it, however this can take many different paths.

It was once the happy day of celebration with family and friends, while the future held snuggling under the duvet looking through the album and recalling the memories. In years gone by you’ve booked a holiday, been out for dinner, toasted the day with friends or family and justifiably posted a loving (and slightly smushy) Facebook status about the devotion of your spouse (I too am guilty). Now the status would involve the cost of divorce, and snuggling under the duvet is because you actually can’t bear to face the world outside. The emotions of the celebration are still present yet heightened in all the wrong ways, and recalling the celebration doesn’t have the same happy connotations.

Recalling our wedding, I had my whole married life ahead of me. The feelings are there, but instead of a warm glow emanating from inside, there’s a gut-wrenching, crushing reminder that it didn’t work out. Sometimes that has meant having to file the emotion and draw it out again later in the safe company of friends. For me this has been friends who knew him, me and how happy we once were.

And it is perfectly acceptable to say ‘that was actually a great day’ and mean it. I still remember being told it felt like one large family was celebrating on our wedding day, rather than two – making the ultimate split and divorce even harder. It is valid to acknowledge how happy you were. It is valid to cry tears upon tears. It is just as good to smile and laugh. Perhaps do something entirely different, that you’d never have done together, to make a new memory. Commemorating rather than celebrating the day is helpful. Commemorating is acknowledging that it was a special day, and now it’s a difficult, complicated day, but that you’re still here, and probably tougher and stronger than you thought you were.

Commemorating and acknowledging has meant a lot of crying and grieving the loss of the happiest day and the marriage that followed. The first year we acknowledged together the difficult circumstance we were in, and then I hung out with friends. The following year it meant being bolstered by more friends in the light of divorcing. In both circumstances, hanging out with someone who is as happy to talk about your wedding day as to ignore it entirely is incredibly freeing. You aren’t having to carefully conceal conflicting emotions on your situation or be unsure whether they will really believe you were happy. They know there was good as well as the bad. It’s also helpful when you know them so well, that you know their own marriage has had ups and downs along the way too; they know marriage isn’t a breeze. They appreciate yours in its entirety, not just commiserating the end. 

These same people can commiserate with you too though. You can commiserate on your own, but I’ve found often I need a hug and a bit of perspective. Commiserating is looking back, but is also forward thinking. The end of marriage is the termination of future possibilities…children, house buying, holidays, growing old together and getting through tough times as a couple. Those are hard things to lose; a dream always is. And the anniversary is mourning the loss of these precious and long-held dreams. It’s being honest about unfulfilment and fears for the future.

Today, the 6th June, would have been my sixth wedding anniversary, and will always be the anniversary of my first wedding (thanks to a great friend for this new perspective!). It may be my only wedding anniversary, or it may not be. Maybe one day it’ll pass by without me noticing it. This year, following a ladies’ prayer breakfast (hosted by yours truly at the unearthly Saturday hour of 8:30am) I shall be making my way once again to London. The remainder of the day shall involve singing, dancing and drinking in the form of Mamma Mia and a cocktail bar. I shall be going with one of those old chums who is the gracious recipient of 10:30pm Skype discussions for me to dissect emotions and events (even now), a new friend, and someone I’ve never met before. For the people who don’t know – there’s no need to mention it, but there’s someone who’ll get it, give me a quick hug and jolly me along, if suddenly emotions hit and I’m finding life hard.

For this year, I decided that doing something I would enjoy was important and I’m acknowledging the way my life is now. So on 6th June 2015, I’m off to be cheerful with people I don’t know, while watching a play about weddings and love set in a place I’d love to visit – all without crying. I think that is testament to how far I’ve come, and I’m definitely going to celebrate that.


Where I’m hoping to be this time next year…this year, through Mamma Mia.

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