I'm sure your wit, which is conspicuous here, has helped you through the last year, Red. It's impressive that you maintain such levity in your grief.
Psychology has a name for everything, and the "anniversary reaction" intensifies grief. Some argue that the annual experience helps discharge the accumulated pain. I dunno. My first partner died on Mother's Day -- something horrible for his mother -- from AIDS and it's still a painful memory every year. And that was 20 years ago and we were no longer partners but best friends by then. I did get a chance to say goodbye and I think that does make a big difference. There are ways to accomplish that after-the-fact, but none as satisfying as the "real" thing.
My mother died about 15 months ago and the following year was nightmarish. Because she'd been a stroke patient for 14 years--unable to talk, walk, read or write the entire time--I did not expect to have such a powerful reaction. Further, we had been estranged most of my life.
I did spend a lot of time with her in the last year of her life and that helped resolve a lot of conflict, but her death did produce a flood of painful memories of her treatment of me. It also, not surprisingly, brought me face-to-face in new way with my own mortality. Suddenly I was a motherless child -- the orphan we all eventually become.
I spent a couple weeks revisiting the places I had lived in the years from infancy to 10. People let me into the houses, the elementary school let me go to my classrooms and the library. I also visited the places my mother grew up. Slowly, I got a better picture of who I was apart from my mother's estimation of me.
But the grief in the last year, even more than with my partner's death 20 years ago, really taught me who my friends are and aren't. I was emotional much of the time, getting unpredictably angry or sad now and then. For years, I've heard clients in grief complain about their friends' responses, and it was kind of a shock to see it for myself. Some people just cannnot handle another person's grief.
Sorry to go on. The grief is always there but, yes, it becomes easier to live with. For me, maybe counter-intuitively, it was important to delve as deeply as possible into my history with my mother and my first love. It's as if the only way to "forget" is to remember.