Dealing with the anniversary of your traumatic event

I was getting nervous. It was just over a month before the first anniversary of my traumatic event that I started getting more emotional, anxious and overwhelmed. I was familiar with those feelings. I’ve always felt similar around the day that my mum passed away for years now. That’s when my mood usually starts to change, and I am stuck in my thoughts, surrounded by grief. But I’m learning to deal with it and trying to celebrate my mum’s life and think of the many happy memories I’ve of her. Given this, I knew that I didn’t want to spend the anniversary of my trauma crying into the pillow.

I was always of the opinion that there are two ways you can look at things. A year ago, a van hit me as I was crossing a road. I’m still recovering and have experienced several setbacks on the way. However, as much as I’m still in pain, I’m ALIVE! And I’m incredibly grateful for this. So whilst I felt more overwhelmed as the day approached, at the same time I was also appreciating my life more.

So when my therapist asked me how I have been feeling about the anniversary of my traumatic event, I told her how I saw it. There were two ways I could deal with it. I could get up in the morning and be sad and cry about what had happened to me. And yes, to be honest, there are days when I do feel like doing this. Times when I wish that day would never have happened, and I wouldn’t have to go through it all. But I also could get up in the morning and thank God that he left me in this world for a bit longer. I have experienced many times how beneficial gratitude can be. Even though it’s not always easy to find something to be grateful for during hard times, research has also shown the health benefits of gratitude. 

Given this, I needed to create a plan that would help me on the day of my first trauma anniversary, not to be stuck with sad thoughts the entire day, but to go through the day celebrating my life. Because sure, that’s what I’m most grateful for and not only on my traumaversary.

How to deal with the anniversary of your traumatic event? 

You may start to experience reactions some time before the day of your trauma anniversary. Many things can be triggers, such as a particular smell, reading a story or watching a programme on TV. I’m writing now from personal experience as it’s what happened to me. I shared this with my therapist, who advised me to limit any intake that can be stressful for me, especially around my traumaversary. 

Selfcare is crucial on those days, more so than ever. Show yourself some love! Recognise and acknowledge your feelings; they are part of your recovery process. Look at what may help you to release them. Give yourself time to feel what you feel, write your feelings down, read them aloud and see if you still feel the same.  Go out for a walk, create a healing playlist, read healing quotes or the Bible, exercise or cuddle in a blanket. Use as many strategies as necessary, including distractions, relaxation techniques or prayer.

My plan, as mentioned earlier, was to fill that day with gratitude rather than sadness. So rather than being upset all day and thinking why this had happened to me, I planned to get up in the morning and thank God for another year of my life. Of course, life doesn’t always go according to our plans. However, I’m glad that the anniversary of my traumatic event started with gratitude, just as planned. 

And I was glad that my hubby could take the day off. We marked this day with a lovely brunch followed by shopping therapy and thanking God for another day. We didn’t rush, we took our time and enjoyed the company of each other. Doing something you enjoy is always a good way of lifting your spirit. So if you can, plan some positive events, perhaps a short break or a day out. An option would also be doing some charity work or a fundraising event.

If this is your first traumaversary, you may want to perhaps mark it as a new chapter in your life with a new haircut or create a ritual. We went to the church for a service, and I lit a candle afterwards. I spent some time with God and thanked Him that He’s always with me. The year hasn’t been easy for anyone, but He kept His promise and didn’t forsake us. With Him, I know that even if I still have a long way to go to recover fully, I will come out of it stronger than I ever was. Hardship and setbacks aren’t there to break us but to make us stronger. 

And you are so much stronger than you think! So don’t punish yourself if this is a hard time for you. Give yourself time to process all you’ve been through. Don’t be hard on yourself or ashamed of your anniversary reactions. This is a time when you need to show yourself a little bit of extra love and compassion. Remember, whilst we are all different and deal with emotions and situations differently, you are not the only one who goes through this. Your reactions are totally normal, and you are entitled to feel what you feel. Just don’t get stuck in it! Instead, give your worries, your pain to God. Ask Him for help and strength. Also, remember, whilst it may be very distressing, the anniversary reactions will pass within a few weeks, and you will come out the other side lighter.

Make it through with gratitude

 On the other hand, the day might be something you would rather ignore. And I can’t tell you if this is the right or wrong decision for you. I can only say that it wouldn’t have worked for me.

In my case, it’s only a year but I’m still in pain so it’s hard to forget it. And I’ve been suppressing other trauma for years. They all crawled back out of the woodwork when pandora’s box opened after yet another traumatic event, my accident. So I tried not to ignore it any longer and to deal with it and learn how to be honest with myself and others. Also, not acknowledging it would only have prolonged the feelings I had in the weeks leading up to the day. So I was glad that I found a way of making it through the day in a way I did – with gratitude, God and my hubby on my side and reminding myself of how far I’ve come in the year.

If you are going through your traumaversary, I am sending strength and prayers. Similarly, if you know someone who goes through it, let them know that you are there for them and that they are not alone.

Katy is a trauma-informed well-being writer who integrates mental health and faith into her words. Katy shares her journey of overcoming trauma on her Journeyofsmiley blog, where you can access her free e-book 7 Keys To Self-Healing, A Trauma Survivor's Guide.

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