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What's the Right Way to Mourn an Anniversary After Divorce?

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Today is full of things I need to do. Today I need to go about my normal routine of writing, editing, and posting content for the website I work for. Today I have plans with a new friend. Today my children have dentist appointments. Today I need to work out at some point, maybe swim some laps at the local Y.

And today would have been my 14th wedding anniversary.

As a military spouse, I got used to postponing special days. When your husband is gone a lot, you tend to treat meaningful days like birthdays and holidays as if they're any other normal day, reassuring yourself that you can celebrate all the missed moments together when he returns. Military life trained me to see the dates on the calendar as suggestions rather than absolutes. I learned it was best to write in pencil because plans always changed. I became skilled at emotionally detaching the meaning to meaningful days.

Because of that mindset, I figured I would treat this first post-divorce anniversary with the same nonchalance I approached it in the past when I had no one to celebrate with. In my 13-year marriage, I can probably count on one hand how many anniversaries my former husband and I celebrated together. Many years, this date was just another day that fell into that mental list of special days we would celebrate later when he came home. I've ignored this day before. I'll just ignore it again.

But in the past few days I've realized that may not be the right approach.

Similar to coping with the death of a loved one, there's a mourning process associated with divorce. We mourn the death of our marriage. There are many reasons to mourn.

For some, it's because they didn't want the divorce. For others, it's because of the circumstances leading up to the divorce.

I'm not mourning the life I had. I stopped wanting to be his wife a long time ago. I'm mourning the life I thought I was going to have. I'm mourning the loss of an ideal. I wanted to live happily ever after with a man. And that didn't happen.

During the process of mourning the death of a marriage, it's hard to ignore the day that marriage was born, the day that ideal was created. It's hard to ignore the mixed bag of emotions that once joyous day now conjures up.

It was a beautiful day filled with happiness, hope, laughter, and a world of possibilities. I don't regret that day, and I don't wish it had never happened because the birth of that marriage led to the birth of many other things, including two incredible children. But now it's also a day of sadness, a reminder that the world of possibilities that seemed so vast for the young couple who exchanged "I do's" no longer exists.

These strangely conflicting feelings are valid, especially with a divorce as fresh as mine. And I don't see much point in ignoring them.

So I'm not going to ignore today. Instead, I'm going to face it head on. I'm going to acknowledge it for the special day it was. I'm not going to look at my wedding pictures, I'm not going to analyze what went wrong since that day, and I'm not going to make a list of regrets and what-ifs. I'm simply going to remember the joy I felt that day and allow myself to feel however I'm going to feel.

And then I'm going to move on to tomorrow and be happy I got through another divorce first.