Q. I lost my only daughter this past June—she was only 38 years old and left 3 young children. They do not live close to me. Our family’s big summer reunion is coming up in a few months and I don't know how I can be around everybody, at what is supposed to be a happy event, when I feel so sad. I am married, but my husband is going through his own grief. Suggestions?
Anniversaries are tough, and it’s not unusual for the looming date on the calendar to start to dominate a bereaved person’s thoughts and feelings. With seasonal events like holidays and family traditions, even just the weather and in this case the long days of summer, it can really feel like it is going to happen again – “it” being the diagnosis, the treatment, the loss, and the feelings that followed. Terrifying!
There’s also a tendency to feel like twelve months is the cutoff point in grieving. It’s been a whole year and you should be “getting over it” by now… In this context, still being sad can feel like failure or defective coping. But the real deal is that everyone has to grieve at their own speed. In working with people who have lost someone to cancer, I’ve begun to understand that the first 12 months are often just about facing the loss and the repercussions of the loss. The second 12 months are often focused on adjusting to the loss and trying to reintegrate oneself back into life without the loved one. There’s no way to rush your process, and no arbitrary point where you should be “back to normal.”
Given that you are still grieving, the upcoming reunion sounds scary and isolating. You mentioned that your husband is going through his own grief. Can you share your fears about the reunion with him? He may be experiencing something similar, in which case there’s the possibility of mutual support. I also suggest seeking out a trusted relative who will be at the event and sharing some of your fears about the reunion. Knowing that a couple of people understand that you are having a tough time, and are willing to support you in that can increase your sense of emotional safety. Regardless, I suggest taking the event at your own pace and building some flexibility into your schedule so that you can take a break if and when you need to.
You may read more in our fact sheet Grieving the Loss of an Adult Child.