Dear Dr. Hwang:
“Why do anniversary’s of hard times make us continue to feel bad?”
Sometimes, anniversary dates represent a challenging time in our lives. Anniversaries can reignite uncomfortable memories and consequently difficult feelings.
Break ups, deaths and or hardships, such as Hurricane Katrina, involve multiple stressors. These emotionally intense experiences take time to grieve, understand and heal from.
People who are aware of anniversary dates, which trigger emotional stress may have an edge on those who feel a mysterious stress every time of year, but don’t know the root? If you know what causes the intense emotional reactions, during specific historical events or times of the year, you may be better able to talk about the anniversary and reconcile the meaning continues to have in your life.
If you’re unaware of what creates annual and/or time specific distress, you may need help retracing the event or situation? Intense experiences from distressing to traumatic can destabilize a person’s otherwise healthy state.
Too often, in an effort to avoid negative and unwanted feelings, people repress memories or avoid feeling bad. Paradoxically, talking about feelings and thoughts towards understanding the anniversary may help you let go and move closer to reducing the anniversary’s emotional and psychological effect.
Anniversary dates regarding hard times are real. It’s okay to seek the counsel of friends or supportive others. It’s healthy to increase your self-care during these times. Most importantly, moving through anniversary dates often require a person to do move slowly and over time.
Healing isn’t a consolidated experience. Like any wound, it takes time, patience and tender loving care.
Kim S. Hwang, PsyD has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is an adjunct professor at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology.
Kim Hwang, PsyD