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What is an Anniversary Response or Anniversary Reaction?

Posted Sep 22 2008 4:36pm
The 11th anniversary of the Sudden Death of Princess Diana today, the 3rd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina a few days ago (August 29) and the upcoming anniversaries of the deaths of Steve Irwin (September 4, the 2nd) and September 11th (the 7th) all are reminders of what loved ones may experience as these dates near...an Anniversary Response.

Anniversary dates of a tragic event, the actual date of the death, the birth date of a loved one, holidays or other special occasions are common triggers for an Anniversary reaction or a grief response; this is a sudden unexpected rush of memories, intense emotions and feelings of grief.

Anniversary Reaction - Defined
The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder provides the following formal definition of an Anniversary Reaction:
    On the anniversary of traumatic events, some people may find that they experience an increase in distressing memories of the event. These memories may be triggered by reminders, but memories may also seem to come from out of the blue while at work, home, or doing recreational activities. An increase in distress around the anniversary of a traumatic event is commonly known as an "anniversary reaction" and can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to a more extreme reaction in which an individual experiences significant psychiatric or medical symptoms.
Coping with an Anniversary Reaction
One way of coping with an Anniversary Reaction is to understand what to anticipate. The anniversary reaction can involve days, weeks or even months prior to the anniversary date of anxiety, anger, nightmares, flashbacks, depression or fear.

Ways of Coping on the Date of the Anniversary
The following list is a collection of different suggestions, activities and ideas of what to do on the actual anniversary date:
  • Gather with friends and families reminisce and tell favorite stories or memories about the person who has died.
  • Plan a remembrance service, celebration of life or find a special way of honoring the loved one lost.
  • Take flowers to the grave site, memorial site or location of the tragedy.
  • Plan a distraction, such as a weekend away or a visit with friends or relatives.
  • Create a road side memorial for a love one who has died in a car accident.
  • Make a donation to a charitable organization in the person's name on birthdays or holidays.
  • Build an ofrenda or altar with portraits, personal goods, clothing, favorite foods and possessions of the deceased family member.
  • Make a toast or say a prayer or blessing at the start of a family meal.
  • Listen to their favorite music.
  • Light a candle.
  • Look at old photos or videos.
  • Share memories over tea.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Establish a scholarship.
  • Dedicate a bench or plaque.
  • Write letters or a journal to the loved one to express your feelings.
  • Create a new tradition. This can be very helpful during the holidays. Instead of celebrating the same place and the same way as when the loved one was alive, find a new place and a new way.
Start a New Tradition
Starting a new tradition is perhaps one of the best ways of coping with a loss. Following the unexpected death of Steve Irwin to celebrated his life and his legacy a year later the Family created the " Steve Irwin Day."

Create a Memorial
For what would have been John Lennon's 67th birthday on Videy Island in Reykjavik, Iceland last year Yoko Ono unveiled the Imagine Peace Tower as a way of encouraging global peace.

Light a Candle
Since 1997, on the second Sunday in December The Compassionate Friends (TCF) hold a Worldwide Candle Lighting in memory of all children who have died too soon. On this day people around the world are encouraged to light a candle to so that... Their Light May Always Shine.

More Information
Dyer KA. 2007 - 2008. Anniversary Reaction - When Remembering Isn't Always a Happy Occasion. Squidoo.com

Sources: Hamblen J, Friedman M, Schnurr P. 2007. Anniversary Reactions: A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Photo Source: Sophie. Heart. Royalty Free Use.

Sacred Life Sunday
This post is one of the Celebrating Sacred Life Sundays Post, a weekly celebration of what is sacred and special in our life. Anniversaries are a reminder to me what is sacred and what we need to celebrate as being special in our lives.
See the first post on Sacred Life Sunday to read more.
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