Calling The Day Someone Passed Away An “Anniversary” Is A Cruel Joke

October 10, 2017

I’m not sure who decided that we should call the date someone passed away an “anniversary.” But, whoever they are, they should be taken out back and (at a bare minimum) slapped around.


Anniversaries are things we celebrate. We eat cake. People say, “Horray! It’s that day that thing happened!” And then they cheer...and 'like' your Facebook status.


On anniversaries of the loss of a loved one, we’re not reminded of a wedding or an exciting first day at a brand new job. We’re reminded of the worst moment of our lives. We’re reminded of a hole in our heart we can never fill. We’re reminded of chaos, and confusion, and irreparable heartbreak. We’re reminded of screams, and paramedics, and wails that come from the bottom of our soul. 


There is no cheering from friends. In fact, on these anniversaries, most friends are nowhere to be found.


Because, you see, the date you lost a loved one is seared in your mind (whether you want it to be or not). It’s when your world stopped spinning. It’s all the moments you played over and over, trying to figure out what you did wrong. What you missed. If there's one tiny thing you could have done differently that would mean someone you loved with all your being would still be here.


But to everyone else, it is just another day.


People often insist that this day should look a certain way. You should cry. You should celebrate. You should remember all the good things about the person you loved, but not feel the agony of losing them. You should, should, shouldy should-should.


This past weekend marked 1 year since losing my sister. 


We are not religious, but we had a priest come and bless her garden. And we had a family friend come and sing my sister’s song, which was also sung at the funeral as we walked comatose behind the casket. 


After all these attempts to be “celebratory” and "honor my sister's memory," I sat on her memorial bench and sobbed. I cried because I felt hurt and angry that nearly none of my friends had reached out, likely forgetting that this day was any day at all. I cried because I knew that I had no business expecting them to remember. I cried because it was warm out, which reminded me of the day she passed -- and how distressing it was that it was sunny on a day that was so horrific and dark.


But the truth is that (like all sides of grief) there is no script for “anniversaries.” Like all sides of grief, these days are lonely and the only thing you can do is try your best to get through them.


This balloon was left in the bathroom of an art museum in Chicago. 

The fact that it looks like both a sword and a heart feels fitting.



What do YOU call the “anniversary” of a loved ones’s passing? What (if anything) helps you get through the day?  


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© Copyright 2017 Danielle Tansino