Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Anniversary Effect

"Anniversary Effect", sometimes called Anniversary Reaction, is defined as a unique set of unsettling feelings, thoughts or memories that occur on the anniversary of a significant experience.

Sometimes you can trace the reason why you're feeling sad, irritable or anxious. One look at the calendar and you connect the dots from your current emotional state to the traumatic event. For example, the birthday of someone who's no longer alive, the date of an accident, a natural disaster or a miscarriage, just to name a few.

Sometimes finding the Anniversary Effect isn't as easy to trace because the event doesn't have a time-specific relationship. It may be more of a seasonal experience. For example, Autumn reminds you of when your child left for college, or a hot humid day reminds you of the time you signed your divorce papers. Or for me, the sounds of Christmas music on the radio takes me back to the trauma of a botched robbery that nearly took my life.

Anniversary Reactions signal that you are still working on moving through the trauma of your experience. It is often a normal part of the grieving process.

What You Can Do

1. Make sure you take time to glance at a calendar each month - and explore dates and memories attached to such dates. This framework can help prepare you for the possibility of an Anniversary Reaction.

2. The anniversary date is not the only day that you might feel out of sorts. Remind yourself that days or weeks leading up to an anniversary date - and even ones after, may be tough ones for you.

3. Anniversaries of public trauma, crises or disasters receive significant media coverage. Often, media outlets revisit distressing imagery. Limit your watching of TV, reading of newspapers and visiting Internet news sites around those dates.

4. Express your memories and feelings when an Anniversary Effect happens. You can do this by talking with a family member or friend, journaling, blogging or finding creative ways to express your inner experiences.

5. Make sure you take good care of yourself during these times. Self-care, support and comfort will help ground you as you move through trauma.

6. If you find that you're struggling with your trauma, remember that you're not alone. Loss affects each of us differently, so don't put a time limit on your grief. If you feel overwhelmed or cannot navigate successfully through your Anniversary Reaction, consider seeking the counsel of a trauma specialist.


Wanda's Wings said...

This is my first Christmas without my Son Chris. He died in January 2010 and today was one of those days that all I could do was cry. I held his shirt that he was wearing in the last picture I had of him. Holding it close to my face and chest smelling it. I really sometimes think I am losing my mind. I don't have a clue if I totally crazy or not. I am attending a support group for parents of lost children, but I just started last month. Losing him seems to have trumped all the other trauma in my life.

I am so sorry you had such a traumatic experience around Christmas. I was mugged one time when I was eighteen and all these years later it still haunts me especially close to the season it happened. I'm just not sure all wounds heal. Do you think I'm am crazy?

Dr. Deb said...

You are going through a very difficult time. As far as traumas go, the loss of a child is number one - the most difficult of traumas to endure. You are not crazy at all. You need to find support from others, so it's great that you are doing that. Losing Chris has left you feeling unmoored and you need to give yourself time and space to find your way. Emotional wounds, like physical ones, do heal - but that doesn't mean they don't still hurt, cause pain or remind us of how they got there in the first place.
I hope your surgery goes well tomorrow. I'll be thinking of you.

Ami said...

I appreciate the things you post here. They help me ponder and understand my feelings.

You often suggest counseling. How do you suggest finding a counselor?

Some things that stop me... money. I don't want to try 14 different counselors to find a good fit and bankrupt myself doing it.

Where to find one? I am not comfortable asking most people I know about it. So word of mouth is not exactly possible.


OHN said...

Dr. Deb....this is wonderful information. It took me years to figure out why I would get so down every May. My mom died on June 12th (long ago) so I knew that was coming up but couldn't understand why May triggered sadness.

Suddenly I figured out that she went into the hospital in May, and never came out. It has amazed me every year since, that somehow my body/mind makes that correlation that mid-May my life changed, though I didn't know it yet.

A week before she went into the hospital for "routine" surgery, she was sitting in my family room holding my new baby. The photo I took that day was the last photo I have of her. So, sadly, my sons birthday seems to start my descent into sadness....when it should be such a happy occasion.

TK Kerouac said...

The smell and sound of spring remind me of breakups and new beginnings.
Its usually a bittersweet feeling.

TK Kerouac said...

I'm going to send you an invite to my private blog so you can analyze my neurotic life
very few readers are allowed in

and by the way

My daughter is the number one blogger in Canada, ten years over
she was the pioneer of blogging and gets 8000 hits a day

she won't let you analyze her
but you can have a field day with me:)

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Ami,
Thanks for your kind words about the blog. I like to cover topics that teach and reach others. As for finding a good therapist, check out this link at PsychCentral:
You should be able to find affordable treatment where you live. The best advice I have is to interview your potential therapist. If you like how that goes, chances are you found a good one.

It is so amazing how our body and mind register time even though we actively don't remember. It's great that you were able to connect the dots.

Smells and sounds set of memories for me too. I'd love the invite, but no analyzing will go on ;) And how fantastic for your pioneering daughter!

TK Kerouac said...

I sent to your .com address but not sure if it will work because i think blogger just takes gmail and other email type links

I don't mind being analyzed

its always interesting

Anonymous said...

My worst time is late June and early July. At that time, in 1996, in a period of a week my father died and my wife (now my ex) demanded that I move out. My life just seemed to fall to ruin in a very brief time. Consequently, at that time of year I must be very vigilant about my emotions.

Nancy said...

I am big on remembering dates. I just saw a reminder that my friend's dog died 6 years ago today. Then I think how fast time has gone and how could it have been 12 years since my folks passed. Sometimes it takes looking at my kids and remembering how young they were at the time to make it sink in. Mostly though, I don't have any bad feelings, just memories and for that, I am grateful!

blogbehave said...

I wish everyone would read this post, especially the last entry - "Loss affects each of us differently, so don't put a time limit on your grief." So many people feel rushed to "get over" the grieving and are negatively judged for the length of time it takes.

Xmichra said...

I hope that you are able to move past your own trauma Deb... I had no idea :(

being that you are in the feild of helping others with their personal struggles, I hope you have a good shoulder to lean on as well ((hugs))