The Dreaded Firsts - The Expected

Oh where to start with this one? The Dreaded Firsts were so incredibly painful.

These are things that you expect to be painful. Their first birthday, your first birthday without them, anniversaries of your being together, wedding anniversaries, valentines day, the first time you go to an event without them, receiving post for them after they die. I am sure you know all the things I am talking about.

My only advice is to do what feels right. It feels like a cop out to say that, I often get asked what to do on these sad-iversaries, but there is no set response.

You have to do what feels right for you.

The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that for me, the build up is so much worse than the actual days themselves. The dread, fear, anxiety, anticipation make it feel so much worse, then the days arrive and they are not as bad as you expected.

I remember my first birthday without him. For weeks before, I was dreading it, I just didn’t want the day to arrive, and when it did, it was nowhere near as bad as I expected. So if you’re feeling this way, it’s normal, and to be expected. The fear of the unknown is massive, and there are so many unknowns on our grief journey.

Some people choose to ignore the days and just carry on as normal, others prefer to spend the day doing something with friends, families or in-laws, some choose to relive special things or go to places they had enjoyed with their loved ones.

There is no right or wrong answer - it’s just a case of doing what works for you and what feels right.

And just to let you know too, just because you did something last year, you don’t have to do the same the year after. For the early anniversaries, I went back to places that had been special to us. I felt I had to. I don’t know why, but I felt I owed it to his memory. It was painful and it hurt, yet I kept putting myself through the pain, and I don't know why.

In the following years, I did what I felt was right, and what would be kind to me. I think I’d lived through enough pain, and it was about time I started to be kind. Now, I very rarely do anything, it feels easier to treat the day as a normal day, it helps it to pass without a giant fanfare.

There’s a song called Falling Slowly, and there’s a beautiful line - “you have suffered enough, and warred with yourself, it’s time that you won”. Those lyrics ring so true. We really have suffered enough, and fought with our minds about what is right and wrong, or the best thing. to do. Stop, and be kind, because you deserve it.

Same goes with the cemetery. At first, I was going every day. Usually twice a day, often three times. I felt I should. I felt it showed I loved him. I felt it showed I still loved him. It broke my heart every time. I cried and cried. I made the decision to stop going. I stopped placing fresh flowers and placed a posy of silk flowers. It caused a world war with his family, and was a huge split in our relationship, but I held strong because I needed to. I had to do some serious self preservation if I wanted to get through this without losing my sanity.

Grief really does affect people. I’ve always said it brings out the best and worst in people. It’s horrible, and it brings emotions to the fore, and makes people do and say things that they’d never usually do.

I suppose it’s normal, and to be expected, but it’s not fun or easy. I fell out with many members of his family due to things they did in those very early days after he died.

With some time and distance, I may not have acted the way I did, but I did. I was grieving and in pain, and what they said and did felt deeply hurtful and offensive to my husband’s memory. They’ve made no effort to apologise to me, so I’ve not made any effort to apologise to them either. I know my husband would be proud of me, for standing up for my beliefs, and if he’d been on the receiving end of their behaviour, they’d have had much harsher words from him, I am sure.

Other firsts can include going back to the place where they died. I remember my first trip back to the hospital, it was heartbreaking. Going back to places you both loved, restaurants, coffee shops, outdoor places - you have an expectation that they will be difficult, so you have a defence ready. Imagine being in the sea, you’re ready to surf. The conditions are right, you’ve got your board, and your wetsuit. You’re perched ready, waiting for the wave to break, and as you do, you’re on it. You’re a master. You knew it was coming and you knew exactly how to ride it.

So now imagine in a calm sea, still, tranquil, shallow and warm. You wade out a little further, and seconds later, a tropical storm hits, the waves rise over your head and knock you over unexpectedly. Your head goes underwater, you can't breathe, you can’t stand up, every time you try, another wave comes and knocks you down.

That’s how the unexpected firsts feel.

Whoosh. That was a tough one to write.

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