The Calendar of Grief

This isn’t a post about the so-called “stages” of grief, nor how long grief lasts (as long as love lasts is my answer to that!)… But this is about the rhythm of the year we face as we live with loss.

Do you have a blog or a diary? Do you ever re-read it? I’ve been re-reading this blog. Sometimes it helps to look back at the road we’ve travelled on, and sometimes it can be a bit surprising. There are quite a few articles I can’t even remember writing.

Then there are others on topics that come up every year more or less in sequence. There is usually something about Pax in January, as that’s his birthday. Lots about Catherine in April, as that’s her anniversary. Then there’s Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day. Times of the year when I have the hope of spring, and times when the cold winter days bring some seasonal gloom.

That’s what I mean about the calendar of grief. There are some days or periods in the year when are significant for each of us personally, and then there are the public and religious holidays that we perceive a bit different now perhaps.

It doesn’t end. Each year we manage our grief, cope with these times, and perhaps even find some joy in them; and the next year we do it again, better or worse.

I recently came across this comment by a young widow:

I spent the first year just trying to breathe. I was drowning in that grief.

I always remember so clearly, this woman — another widow who was a little further, maybe six months ahead of me in the process — saying to me, ‘You will be disappointed to find out what happens after the first year.‘

And I remember saying, ‘Well, what happens?’

And she said, “There’s another year.”

Artie Henderson, 37, in

So true. Another year means another Christmas, another New Year’s Eve, another birthday, another anniversary, another special date on our personal calendar, another season when the world around us has put up the lights and is celebrating.

It can feel overwhelming and exhausting in the first years of our bereavement, but gradually I think we do adjust to the rhythm of our years. We find ways to protect ourselves, to brace ourselves for what we know will come. Maybe we find some strategies that make it a bit easier. Personally I find it helps to plan ahead something like a memorialising activity or something to keep me busy, although on some occasions it’s easier to try to ignore it – for me Mother’s Day is particularly hard, so I wouldn’t want to eat out in a restaurant or pub on the weekend when the day falls.

And so the year turns. Deep in our broken hearts, we might not always welcome that continuation – the “another year” – but each year does give us more opportunities to honour the memories of loved ones, to do what would make them proud or happy with us, to preserve their names. From this I think that we can draw more than a little consolation.


This picture doesn’t have much to do with this post but I wanted to share it because it’s such a beautiful place we visited recently. It’s Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset, a unique managed colony of mute swans that was started in the 11th century. Imagine all the cygnets born and raised, new little swan families that have bred, grown, died in that time – almost one thousand years! I guess they also experience their own rhythm of the year. (So maybe I’ve found an actual reason to include the pix.) (Find out more)




One thought on “The Calendar of Grief

  1. Pingback: Sent into a tailspin, finding equilibrium: Coping with other people’s responses to our grief. | A Valley Journal

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