When I was a child, of the 365 days in a year, only two had meaning for me: my birthday on May 9 and Christmas on December 25. Those were the days I learned to anticipate and they never disappointed me. In to my 20s I filled my calendar with more celebratory dates: my wedding day, the birthdays of our children, my mom’s birthday, the birthdays of my nieces and nephews and friends.

In my 30s I experienced my first “dreadful” date on the calendar, September 22, 1979 the day my mother died. Since then, every time that date approached it shook up my sadness. It also added another “dreadful” date. My mom’s birthday, April 26, once a day of celebration, also brought sadness. Mother’s Day was also a day with mixed feelings. And I learned about the waves of grief that come with these anniversary dates. I was always grateful that my daughter Sarah was born on April 27, so I was still able to celebrate that time of year.

When you lose someone you love, so many calendar dates become “dreadful.” That once happy birthday time becomes of reminder of the happiness and hope that ended abruptly. The death anniversaries are the worst because there never was a happy memory attached. Just dread. Especially when we mourn our children because that just shouldn’t be.

And no matter how many years pass, and your calendar fills with more “dreadful” dates, and you feel like you are actually getting on with life better than you ever thought, somehow the wind is sucked out of you once again and your bones hurt because your heart knows—this is a dreadful date on my calendar.