Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Anniversaries are connoted with times of celebration and remembrance. Whether it be a birthday, a dating anniversary or a wedding anniversary, these annual acknowledgments mark the important event that once took place on that day. 

However, it is important to note that not all anniversaries are cheerful. For some, there may be certain days that remind someone of a passed loved one. There may be a day that is extremely triggering to a survivor of sexual assault. Trauma anniversaries are unique to each individual, although not everyone experiences them. 

If you are growing uneasy as the calendar days begin to creep to “that day”, it is completely normal to feel that way. Whether you have attempted to tackle the grief, or if you have shoved it deep down inside, emotions are bound to stir. 

The anniversary effect is a collection of disturbing or unwanted thoughts centered around a date that marks a significant event. These feelings are not only specific to one day; you may experience a range of emotions for days or weeks before, and it is also normal to encounter these feelings after the trauma anniversary has passed.

“Our brains store painful, sad or traumatic memories in an easily accessible way so that we can be reminded of, and warned of, the dangers to protect us from something similar happening again,” wrote psychotherapist Bridget Freer in the Awareness Centre

Essentially, the anniversary effect is a psychological phenomenon that subconsciously forces us to “relive” our trauma in protection from a similar event occurring. However, there are ways to cope with this upcoming anniversary.

Talk about it

One of the best ways to process emotions is by verbalizing them. Whether it be a friend, family or a close adult figure, let them know how you are feeling during this time and what they can do to help. Talking about your feelings and emotions is a great tool to validate and rationalize your feelings. Sometimes you just need a shoulder to cry on, and that’s okay.

Limit social media

As interesting as social media may be, it is proven to heighten depression. On this particularly difficult day, look to other alternatives to distract you. These distractions could be in the form of reading, painting, listening to music or playing a board game with friends. Media coverage such as national news can have the possibility of triggering you in this vulnerable time. It is best to take a step back from the media surrounding a trauma anniversary in order to protect yourself from heightened grieving.

Take time for yourself

Allow yourself the day to focus on yourself and what you need. Perhaps you need to escape reality with a book or feel the need to let out some endorphins by going for a run. You could feel driven to turn on a podcast and clean your apartment. It is also perfectly normal to spend the day at home and binge-watch Netflix. However you choose to spend the day, it is valid.

Look for support

Trauma anniversaries can bring up unwanted memories, and it is important to find support around you. It is important to be aware of the resources around you that can help. If you have a therapist, talk therapy can be very beneficial. Additionally, there are local hotlines that you can call or reach out to, most of which offer 24/7 services.

Trauma anniversaries are a challenging time for those who have experienced hardship. It is important to know that you are not alone. Although the aching pain in the bottom of your heart may feel paralyzing, like most things, it will get easier with time. 

If you have experienced the anniversary effect, think you might have PTSD, or are struggling with grief, you can contact one or more of the following resources.

  • DC 24 Hour Suicide Hotline: 888-793-4357
  • Rape Crisis Center: 202-333-7273
  • My Sister’s Place: 202-529-5991
  • RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
  • William Wendt Center for Loss and Healing: 202-624-0010 or 202-610-0066
Isabella is a freshman at American University in Washington, D.C., and is studying psychology. She enjoys writing about Women's Advocacy, Mental Health Awareness, and Wellness. Isabella also loves to travel and to create art, specifically mixed media and ceramics.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️