After a loved one dies, even day-to-day life can be difficult. When special dates—like birthdays or anniversaries roll around—it may sometimes seem even more painful. In time, hopefully those dates will become less painful and more poignant, tinged with hope and peace.
Thanksgiving. Of all holidays, this is one especially connected with family togetherness. But when one family member is conspicuously missing, it can just feel amplified when everyone is around the dinner table. Why not offer a special prayer of thanksgiving for the person who is gone—and have everyone share a moment, silly or serious, about that person.
Birthdays. A birthday is, perhaps, the one date most closely associated with an individual. But in their absence, celebration can still occur. One mother who lost her son to suicide sends up a bouquet of balloons to the heavens each year on his birthday—coloring the sky with her love and his memories. It’s her way of celebrating his life in a tangible and visible way.
Anniversary of Death. Few people forget the day a loved one died. Many wish to remember their loved ones each year on that date. Let the memorialization fit the time period—survivors will have very different emotions one year after the death compared to 10 years later.
Most importantly, don’t push anything that doesn’t feel natural. It is important to mourn—and memorialize—in your own way and in your own time. Do what you have to do to keep special dates happy and filled with positive memories.
Your First Christmas after Loss
Holidays can be an intense, emotion-filled time—whether or not someone has lost a loved one. For those feeling a recent loss, Christmas can be an especially lonely season. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s the perfect time to commemorate the life of a cherished loved one.
Why not think of the memory of your loved one as a gift you can open each year? While that person may no longer be able to be physically present, revisiting—and sharing—fond memories can prove comforting and soothing. Here are a few ways to share the spirit of a loved one during Christmas time:
Create a commemorative ornament. Use themes and items important to the person you are remembering. And hang the ornament on the tree or on the mantel each year. Involve young children in creating the ornament; it’s an especially nice way to remember those lost to future generations.
Say a prayer. In regular prayer offerings at church services or at holiday dinner, say a few words about the loved one—invoking what they would have said or done on that day. Their name alone—spoken aloud—may bring some tears, but it can also spark inspirational memories.
Visit a cherished place. While some people find comfort visiting cemeteries or mausoleums, others may not. Why not find an alternate place to visit in remembrance—such as a park, theater or restaurant you visited together?
Send a card to your loved one. Just because someone has died doesn’t mean they are forgotten. So instead of taking them off your Christmas card list, write out a card or letter with well wishes, enclose it in a sealed envelope and store it to read at a later date. Maybe keep it in the family Bible, in a memory box or hope chest. Open the cards years later, when grief is less palpable and you have a fresh perspective on the future.
The First Anniversary of Loss
Often the anticipation of the anniversary of loss is worse than the actual day itself. To help you with this milestone, consider this guidance:
Plan Ahead. Think about how you would like to spend the day. Would you like to spend it in quiet reflection or with others? Would you like to visit the cemetery? Perhaps you would like to do something your loved one enjoyed?
Allow Yourself Some Time Alone. As you reflect on your loved one and your journey over the last year, your tears may flow freely. You may want to plan some time alone during the day when you can freely express your emotions.
Let Others Know Your Plans. Some friends and family may not understand the significance of the date to you. If you are comfortable, let them know the day is arriving and that you will need their support. Alternately, have a trusted friend explain the significance of the day.
Involve Others in the Day. Would you like others to be involved in your plans for the day? Perhaps you need someone to go to the cemetery with you? Or would you like to have a get together to share memories about your loved one? Perhaps you want a quiet visit with a few trusted friends?
Plan an Act of Remembrance. Would you like to place a memorial in the newspaper? Donate to a special charity? Plant a tree? Have a small ceremony at the cemetery? Send flowers to other family members? Share special memories together over lunch? Look at photos or videos? Try to pick something that may make you smile as you honor the life of your loved one.
Share Stories of Your Loved One. Perhaps one of the best ways you can honor a loved one is through the simple act of remembrance and story-telling. With laughter as well as tears, sharing memories is a way to hold the person close to you. Hearing stories from others lets you learn even more about and understand different phases of your loved one’s life.
Remember the Gift of Your Loved One. Try to reflect on the gifts your loved one gave you. The love, care, support and memories will always be yours. Your loved one will always be with you in your memory, spirit and heart.
About our Grief Educator, Chelsea Hanson
As an author, Chelsea Hanson has the special gift of finding the right words when they are needed most. Having experienced loss and transcended grief herself, Chelsea provides a sense of comfort and understanding to help people with grief. Her reassuring words provide hope that you too will be able to journey through grief and find a new appreciation of life.
Copyright 2012, Chelsea Hanson, With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes, LLC. All rights reserved. The information may not be used, reproduced or transmitted in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise. Powered by www.ChelseaHanson.com