Anniversaries That Aren’t

This one passed with barely any recognition. It was just another day. I only became aware of its familiar form as I was signing passes for students. Yesterday marked what would have been (note: NOT what should have been) the 14th anniversary of my first marriage. And there were no ghosts. No whimpers from the past. No nothing.

It was a day unmarred by bygones and what-ifs.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

Here’s my post from last year’s anniversaries that aren’t:


Today would have been my thirteenth wedding anniversary. Thirteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart on an empty beach in Florida. The photos from that day capture the love we had. The youth. The innocence. The promise.

wedding pic

What would have been our tenth anniversary was the hardest. He has left five months prior and we were still legally married. I used a psychiatrist’s appointment as an excuse for a sick day off work (the last day before winter break and a planned trip to San Antonio). After the morning appointment, I took a Xanax (one of three I took during the whole experience) and spent the day in my bed in my friend’s guest room. I distinctly remember not wanting to be alone and feeling reassured that her husband and then her father were going to be there throughout the day. I couldn’t muster up the energy to be social. I don’t think I ever made it down stairs, but I remember listening to the sounds coming in my door. I spent the day in a fugue state – not awake and not asleep. I tried to read, but couldn’t. I tried to sleep, but that eluded me too. I cried. A lot. I wrote. I cried some more. I could not face that anniversary that wasn’t.

By the would-have-been eleventh anniversary, I was in a much better place. I was situated in my own apartment and in the early stages of a new relationship. It was still a very difficult day. A sad day. I went to work. I functioned. But I also broke down and cried a few times. I was afraid to be alone that evening and spent the night at Brock’s. I still mourned what had been lost, but I also saw hope for the future.

Last year, on would be anniversary number twelve, I felt okay. I didn’t feel like I was a damn holding back a wall of sadness that was waiting to crush me. I felt okay. But I didn’t trust it. I remember tiptoeing through the day, as if I might release the pain if I tread too hard. The pain didn’t come. I spent a normal (as normal as a middle school can be) day at work and spent a quiet evening on the couch with Brock.

And today? On lucky number thirteen? I’m alone at the moment and I okay. No, I’m more than okay. I’ve been aware of the date but it hasn’t hurt. I left a note for Brock this morning as this same date is a difficult anniversary for him for different reasons) and I received an image with the following quote from him on my Facebook:

Good relationships don’t just happen. They take time, patience, and people who truly want to be together.

That definitely helps keep any demons at bay:) I came home to Brock and his friend, who just had knee surgery, on the couch laughing and playing Call of Duty. It was a scene that made me smile – two friends helping each other and laughing while doing it. By the time I got back from the gym, Brock was at ju jitsu, where he will be until after I’m asleep (I’m pitiful in the evening). I’m alone on December 18, but I’m not alone. I’ve let people into my heart and they are with me even now. Oh, and Tiger and Maddy too:) It’s hard to feel alone when you have a 90 lb pit bull on your lap!


Anniversaries that aren’t are strange things. They are meaningless and yet we mark them. It’s a time when we used to reflect upon the past years of the relationship. Now that the relationship is over, we find ourselves playing a game of “what if?,” wondering what this day might have looked like otherwise. These anniversaries are so piercing at first, the loss overwhelming and threatening to undo a year’s worth of work. But they don’t have to stay that way. We can let them soften, let them become mere curiosities on the calendar. I see it like a number line. I used to count the positive numbers away from my wedding day. Now, I am on the other side of zero, counting away from my divorce date. I can see today as would-have-been thirteen or I can celebrate it as it-is-three. I bet you can guess which view I choose:)

So, I am wishing myself a happy anniversary. And I am celebrating three years of loving and laughing and learning. That’s an anniversary I can celebrate every year!



And today, yet another year out, I am still celebrating. And wishing all of you happy anniversaries that aren’t.




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35 Responses

  1. Debbie says:

    I am 5 years post divorce. It must have been year 3 when the anniversary date became just another day. It was a milestone in recovery and healing.

  2. Anja says:

    Reading this came at the perfect time. This coming January would have marked 21 years of marriage but I think it has more of a sting because this year we celebrated 20 years and 2 weeks later is when the marriage ended. I have no expectations how I will handle January but was comforting to see others that can relate to these moments.

  3. Ray says:

    This January will be our 21st anniversary, but we are separated and will be divorced come June, 2014. I will spend the day with my kids, driving back from seeing family for the holidays. Love the picture quote at the end. So SO TRUE !

  4. I am almost 2 years post divorce. It was me who left and it was devastating though. Worst day of my life. And worst year and so of my life. And not entirely healed. It is so hard… As Anja says, it is comforting to see others that can relate to these moments. Thank you.

  5. muddy runner says:

    I recently passed my 2nd anniversary that wasn’t. It was tough but better than the 1st. Your words and advice ring true. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Cerridwynn says:

    I’ve been separated from my almost 6 years now, divorced for 4. I still have PTSD surrounding the wedding anniversary, although it does seem to be getting easier with each year that passes. The divorce date in June though, I celebrate my freedom.

  7. Divorce is the last thing on your mind when you marry. It’s a shock when it comes but there are better tomorrows. I’ve buried my hatchet long ago and wonder I was ever married. ‘-)

  8. Yes, I can see that my divorce was my birth announcement, albeit that I did not know it until I was two years old 🙂

  9. Tara says:

    I couldn’t believe the title of this when I saw it. For me, 22 years day before yesterday and the paperwork is not final. It’s been a hard week like the previous 16 weeks or so. Each of your posts have been so timely for me. Thank you!

  10. I get it…thank you for this. And I’m proud of you. -c

  11. My therapist told me that the “firsts” of everything can be very painful, especially holidays. I’ve made it through everything except for Christmas and New Years. What would have been our 6th anniversary was incredibly painful so I can relate. I’m thinking about hiding this Christmas- it just doesn’t feel safe to be out in the world on this day.

  12. My “divorce anniversary” is Christmas Day. Last year, we spent that day together. This year, which will mark 2 years’ post divorce, we’ve both moved on, like, really moved on. And so, I will be making new memories with the one I love.

  13. My first marriage lasted 2 1/2 years. I flailed about for a time after it’s demise, but survived intact. Now, I’ve been married nearly 26 years to a wonderful man… we’ve hit some rough spots, but have toughed it out and that effort is certainly paying off!

  14. I only got around to reading this today – how funny (? unfortunate? coincidental?) that we both had the same first wedding anniversary (I say first, I hope for another wedding one day). As always, glad to read your posts knowing you are further down the line than I. It gives me hope and comfort.

  15. Rasheeda says:

    I so can relate to this one. We were divorced a week shy of our 9th anniversary. Hey… thats a post… stay tuned. 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  16. I loved everything about this post, from the title to the sentiments expressed. I was only married one year, and didn’t even make the 2nd year mark, which is a haunting thought. Perhaps in relation to five or ten or fifteen year marriages, I have more to be grateful for than others. Or perhaps every year I’ll wonder why it didn’t really work. I don’t know and it’s too early for me to tell (though I hope it’s not the latter). I treat the end of my marriage as a new beginning, but some dates do become larger reminders of your lessons than others.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Today I would have celebrated 21 years of marriage, a very struggling and painful marriage, but all the same. We separated almost two weeks ago and the paperwork with the lawyer has begun. I’m a working mother but all I wanted to do today was stay in bed and cry for the two decades of love I spent on a man so not deserving of me. Today he called me “ma’am” to be respectful. For some odd reason I had hoped I would get some kind of emotional support from the man I called my best friend for 21 years. I’m devastated and can’t keep my emotions or thoughts contained. I was the happiest bride the world had ever witnessed and my life wasn’t supposed to be wasted like this. Thank you all for your comments, I hope this time next year it will be a celebration of new life instead of the dark sadness I feel today. Maybe I’ll even have no more tears left by year two. We’ll see.

    • Isn’t it hard when the one whose shoulder you used to cry on becomes the reason that you’re crying? So sorry you’re in that place. The new life will grow, watered by the tears that mourn the old.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Tomorrow would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. Being separated only 3 months ago, my heart is aching and I’m wrecked. But I know time heals all wounds, and like the girls above, time will come that this day will be just another ordinary day. In God’s perfect time.

  1. February 18, 2014

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    […] When you are in pain, the calendar can be your enemy. How do you handle anniversaries? […]

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