One year doesn't seem like that much time.
When it is 365 days of waking up without a big nose in your face or 52 Sundays of a solitary sunset walk, it feels like forever. It feels like too long.
The first anniversary is a tough one, and there are so many things that don't come up in conversation about this kind of grief. They don't tell you how heartbreaking it will be to go through holidays or changes of seasons, because your memories of what life was like this time last year - the last time - will flood your brain. They don't tell you how finding a invoice from the last visit will crush you. They don't tell you how much it will hurt to put away a winter coat or a collar and never pull it out again to put on someone who is wiggling so much it's darn near impossible to snap the buckles.
They don't talk about how raw and meaty you can feel a whole 365 days after death. They don't talk about how the mere awareness of this day being an anniversary of one of the hardest days of your life can make everything seem overwhelming.
In my experience, grief doesn't get easier with time. It changes, just as the relationship changes. Most of the rough edges begin to smooth a bit and once in a while, seemingly without warning, one of those rough edges will snag you.
The first anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate your relationship. The white flowers you see grow on a bush that was the favorite napping place of a well-loved Lab named Laney. She would circle beneath the bush on warm, sunny days and slowly blink her eyes until she fell asleep. After 12 years of sleeping under this bush, she now permanently rests there.
According to Laney's person, the bush usually blooms early in May. This year it bloomed one month later, just in time for Laney's anniversary. The photograph of Laney's bush now has a place inside, where it blooms all year, much like Laney's love.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.