I was chatting to a friend of mine who is on her own disaster recovery journey at the moment and we were talking about disaster anniversaries.
She was saying that it never fails to surprise her how inconsistent her reaction is to the anniversary date – some years she dreads the lead up to it, and it overwhelms her. Some years she uses it as an excuse to do something especially enjoyable, even if it’s only something small. Other years, she said she doesn’t actually notice it until it has passed.
I confessed that I still don’t always know what to say to someone about anniversaries. Should I bring it up unprompted? Should I leave it be? Do I send a message or wait until I see them next? What do I even call it? Your anniversary? Is that weird, or is that just what it is? For me, there is a sense of personal and professional shame in not really knowing the best course of action to take, and that shame and awkwardness stunts me into silence often.
We discussed that just as there isn’t a right reaction, there also isn’t a right approach for supporters to take. But that saying something is usually better than saying nothing.
So to all of you who have recently had, or are about to have a milestone date on your own recovery journey, on behalf of the people who might not reach out to you because they’re not sure what to say, I wish you well. I hope that you’re using it as a reminder to do something especially nice, even if it’s only something small.
As always, if you’re keen to participate in the research, or know someone else who might be, I’d love to hear from you. You can click here for more information, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m still hoping to receive letters about what people have found helpful and unhelpful after a disaster up until June 2017.
Looking to nerd it up about disaster anniversaries and memorials? My recommendations to you are:
The talented Shona Whitton undertook a Churchill Fellowship last year looking at disaster memorials. You can (and should!) read it here.
The excellent Anne Eyre – just basically put her name into Google or Google Scholar and read the stuff she has written, including her latest book Collective Conviction.