August 21. September 15. November 3. November 11.

All these significant dates. August 21 would have been John’s 55th birthday. He never expected to make it to 50, let alone to 53, so each passing year beyond that auspicious number was a miracle and astonishment.

September 15 will be our nineteenth wedding anniversary. November 3 would have been my brother’s 57th birthday. And November 11 marks the second year John has been gone and I have been the Practical Widow.

I don’t dread the arrival of the dates nearly as much as I did the first year. I braced for them as if a hurricane was arriving and I guess in a way it was. But each day ticked by like all the others, I was sadder than usual but each day came and went. Those days were sharp reminders of what had happened the year before.

This year, I’m more melancholy. Rather than the oppressive grief of the first year, I’m experiencing a lot more of the smaller moments. Perhaps I’m just less weighed down and can see them now, whereas before I was overwhelmed just getting through each day. It’s the tiny passing changes that are so hard now. John would have liked the new fence I put up in the back yard. He would hate it that I’ve etched huge scratches on the side of my brand new car because it’s a little too big for the garage. He would have liked the new stop light at Greenlake Way and the one on to Aurora southbound, because it’s easier to turn left during busy times. (Not that anything ever stopped him from driving way too fast and bitching about the other crappy drivers.) He would be so proud of Harry and what a gorgeous sweet dog he’s grown into and what good friends he and Betty are. Jim would have enjoyed the Cleveland Cavalier’s run for the championship and he would have been terribly proud of me going to graduate school.

My birthday is November 13, two days after John’s death anniversary. I suppose that will always hang over the date. I’m happy to be reminded I’m alive each year and I feel obliged to live a full life on John and Jim’s behalf. So I keep trying.

For each date, I do work hard at planning something meaningful. For our wedding anniversary, I take myself to the Mariners ball game and buy the best seat I can find, which is easier both when you are buying just one seat and when the Mariners are the worst team in baseball. It’s like a date with a ghost, but it’s where I’d rather spend the day. For the birthdays, I’ve planned long hikes with the dogs, it’s lovely and it gets me out without having to force social behavior.

When I was anticipating the first anniversary of John’s death, a Jewish friend suggested following the Jewish tradition of a gravestone unveiling. It was an excellent idea, especially since we had planned to bury some of John’s ashes next to his mother and father in Texas. His brother and I spent months planning a small memorial at the grave side and a Texan-sized barbecue at the family home afterward. It gave me something to look forward to that was meaningful and significant for that day, gathered together those who cared about John and let us all sit around in a much more relaxed atmosphere than the funeral and tell tall tales about him. It was the perfect solution.

I must say however, it was thoughtful of John to die on a national holiday, which gives me a day off each year to think of my own fallen veteran.

Born in 1961. Married in 1990. Widowed in 2007. Blogging in 2009.

12 comments On Waaaa-nniversaries

  • I get this. I’m 16 months out, and I’m noticing the same sadiversaries being more sad, than overwhelming. My husband died on Mother’s Day, so we just skip it, and celebrate Father’s Day…universally. That doesn’t really fix things, but it’s easier, anyhow. Good luck to you, during this season. It’s hard, even if it’s different.

  • Your site is just what we widows need–practical. I’m putting a link to it on my blog. Thanks, Thelma Z

  • I suspect you and I are about the same age. My husband Mike died at 53 and I have just passed the beginning of all the second year “death anniversary” dates. He will have been gone 2 years ago on March 1st.
    I have just discovered your blog and will conitnue to follow it.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sometimes it’s just reassuring to know that someone else out there is facing the same issues that I am facing.

  • Thank you… you’re right, we are probably around the same age. John was 53 when he died, I was 46.

  • Hello! Your blog is very dear to a friend who has lost her husband not too very long ago. Thank you! I’ve reposted your blog on mine as well.

    Have a super Tuesday!
    Kimy Kennedy – The Social Single


  • Thanks to you… hope that it helps you both. It’s a rough road for everyone but we get through it together by opening up to the amazing love and support that is out there for all of us. There will come a time for your friend when—if only for a brief moment at first—she remembers the joy of simply being alive. Those moments will happen more and more, each on their own time. Friends make that happen and keep it going. So keep on together.

  • jackie billings

    It’s only been a month…thanks for talking…my husband was one of the “good ones”. We were married 10 yrs. and for 4 of it my Mom lived with us and he helped take care of her. I mean, for real. The last month he transferred her from the bed via a “hoyer lift” to the wheelchair , as well as performing other nurse-ly duties you should not ask a husband to do. But he did it, without complaining. I think I complained about the situation more then him.
    Oh, he was 58 and still a “hunk” and admired by young and older females for his looks. One friend, aged 89, says he is “cute as a button” in her Southern accent. I sure miss him. Hopefully he and Mom are in Heaven shootin’ the breeze and enjoying a pain-free existance. Thanks for listening.

  • This is great! I needed this site so much. My husband died One year ago this week. I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for opening your heart to those like me, who need words of truth.

  • My husband of 12 years technically, even though we were sweet hearts and best friends many years before we tied the knot, passed away in October 2013. My mother died the month before him and my step-father 2 months after my husband. Not to say I don’t miss the parents, but my hubby was my soul mate. It took me several years to find him, after a first failed marriage and several disastrous relationships in between. I always felt like I had really been blessed to have him, but I wished it had been for many more years. Our marriage, like many marriages, had some bumps along the way, but we knew in our hearts that it would take only the death of one of us to separate us. I have also heard the lame well intentioned comments, but I forgive them. It really is taking one day at a time. The little happenings that aggregrate my grief happen at the oddest times. Like seeing his favorite shaving cream at the supermarket, his end table with his stuff, our photos, etc. But life and occasional laughter goes on, my children and grandchildren still need me. In other words, I still have things to take care of, and that gives me purpose to carry on. Thanks for letting me share.

  • I am 27 years old, and on Feb 12th my 28 year old wife passed away. We had only been married for a year and a half and were just talking about having kids this year. Today is two weeks since she passed. I don’t know how to handle the major dates, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, when right now I can handle Wednesday. I know that everyone tells me that time will help, but some days I can’t get out of bed. How do I get through each day without her?

  • Thanks for this website. My husband and I were married 28 years. He died 2 months ago from an aggressive cancer which means he lasted for 7 weeks after being diagnosed, He was a strong, tall man who just started to waste away. We could only keep him comfortable. While I was with him throughout and right to the end, I still can’t get used to the fact that he is no longer with us. I can’t bear to pack away his things and everything is still sitting where he left them in October 2014. Will this change? He was at peace and ready to go to a better peaceful place with hid Lord.

  • My husband of 36 years died Aug. 28, 2014 at age 59. I was 57 and came home from work and found him dead of a heart attack. At 9 months out, I have been looking for a site to help with the realities of widowhood. I do have a grief counselor which helps a lot and 2 wonderful adult sons who let me moan and cry whenever it hits me. But, nobody truly understands this unless they’ve been through it. I know friends and family mean well but I am pretty tired of all the “Hallmark card” remarks like “He is just away” or “He sees and knows what’s happening”. I feel like telling them that’s crap. The truth is, he is gone and for the first time in my life, I am living alone and dealing with everything by myself. I recently ran into an acquaintance who said she is divorcing her husband. She then said it would be easier for her if he would have just died like my husband. I was so shocked by the comment all I said was “Its not easier and I loved MY husband”. What a horrible thing to say to a widow. People can be cruel. Or rather, STUPID people can be cruel. Thanks for letting me vent!!!

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How else do I know what hurts and what helps? Because not only were they done to me… I learned through this process that I am certain to have done the very same "Don't" things to others at some point along the way. If you're one of them, I am genuinely sorry. I'm trying to learn.