National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

When the storms strike

April 2014

by Julie Hahn

I was a blubbering wreck. Which surprised me.

We were attending a funeral and my heart ached for the family. But that did not explain my over-reaction. As I searched in the bottom of my handbag for tissues and asked Chris to find his handkerchief, I tried to figure out what the problem was. A quick run-through of the calendar in my head reminded me: it was the week in which the baby we had lost would have celebrated a birthday.

I realised that my reaction was explainable and that the emotions overwhelming me were really my own grief. So I was able to acknowledge that my feelings were valid and put them on hold to deal with later. I cleaned myself up, and, at last, offered my condolences to the family.

Grief is like that.

It surprises us with emotions that seemingly bubble up out of nowhere.

Sometimes there are obvious triggers: we see something that reminds us of our loved ones; we meet someone who knew our loved one and we pick up our mobile to call them, only to realise … they’re no longer on the other end of the phone. We watch a movie, a television program, or even an advertisement and the tears begin to roll down our cheeks—for apparently no reason. But if we pause for a moment to think about it, we may recognise it as grief.

But anniversaries are another matter.

Some anniversaries are obvious. Birthdays and Christmas, wedding anniversaries, and anniversaries of deaths are occasions when we know we will miss our loved ones terribly. People close to us usually understand our grief and might even anticipate it.

But other anniversaries are much more personal and private. Some we want to remember: the first time we met, the first time we held hands, the time we went on a trip somewhere special.

Sometimes anniversaries are not even about grieving for a person, but for an event that happened, or something we had hoped and planned for that never happened.

Other anniversaries we don’t wish to remember—but they still live on secretly in our hearts.

Being aware that anniversaries we don’t consciously think about may still pop up and surprise us can help to reassure us that we are not going insane. Somehow, our subconscious is reminding us that this matters to us.

We can acknowledge our grief—which is easier to do if our memories are pleasant—or we can try to lock it away. But if we continue to hide grief deeply within us it can breed like a cancer and cause us to become bitter and angry, poisoning our thoughts and attitudes on the inside, even though we may smile on the outside.

Finding someone whom we can trust to help us acknowledge our grief is …