The holiday season is “officially” over! No it’s not. For a griever, the holidays are never over. Okay, so Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas finally came to an end… but more holidays and special days continue. Birthdays, major holidays, anniversaries, and other special days can be particularly difficult after a death or significant loss. Even the most obscure holidays can be a reminder of your grief. Of course the last five Father’s Days have been painful for me since Daddy died but now I even miss the cards that I received from him on “Sweetest Day!” (What is that anyway? Probably just another holiday that the greeting card companies came up with, I’m not sure.) If there was a card for a particular day, my mother had to send it and I know she prompted my dad by to buy a card on that day every year… but I miss it anyhow! Think about the special days that stand out in your life. What about the Memorial Day picnics? The annual 4th of July fireworks show? The Labor Day parade? The birthday celebrations? What about all the anniversary days you can think of? Then there is the holiday coming up… the official “holiday of love,” Valentine’s Day; does that one stir up painful emotions?
Sometimes the people around us can forget about how those days may affect us, or maybe they don’t even know about certain days that we hold special. However, as for grievers, we don’t forget. My dad gave me a small box of chocolates in a heart shaped box almost every Valentine’s Day while I was growing up. (I still have the pink one in my keepsake trunk.) That is my memory that I cherish. Now I don’t want my husband to read this and go buy me chocolates in a heart shaped box! That was my memory that I shared with my dad. I don’t want to recreate those events in some pseudo-way, I just want to treasure those memories and I hold them close. Sometimes I just want to recall them alone and sometimes I like to reminisce about those memories with someone else.
Openly Discuss with Family
Holidays and special days can be very important times for individuals and for families that are grieving. These times are difficult for you as a griever, however other family members may be grieving also and want to share their thoughts and feelings too. This can be a perfect opportunity to talk and truly communicate what these days mean to each person. It’s a time that you can help each other in the grieving process. People deal with loss differently and may have diversified views on how to approach these special days so all family members’ expectations and feelings should be considered during these times. What is comfortable and desired by each person may vary, so to avoid confusion and even more pain, it’s best to discuss openly as a family unit. Let your desires and ideas be known to your family and also to your support system and then in return, listen carefully to each of them.
Remember the Past while Making New Memories
When holidays and special days come to you, my fellow grievers, embrace them with joy – not dread. Think of pleasant memories from the past that are associated with that day, then create new memories for the future. Here are a few suggestions for remembering and honoring your loved one, or what you lost, on very special days. However, you or your family can come up with your own ideas. It doesn’t matter what you do to recognize your loss or how you celebrate these days, as long as you feel comfortable doing it.
- Make a card or buy a card for your loved one.
- Draw a picture of a special memory concerning the special day.
- Share stories and memories of the special days you celebrated in the past.
- As a family, participate in a special activity together and have fun while remembering.
- Light a candle or set a place at the table in memory of a loved one during a special mealtime.
- Watch home movies of previous holidays and special days.
- Make a special ornament using a photo of your loved one or of a family memory.
- Look through photos, scrapbooks and mementos either alone or together as a family.
- Make new traditions with family and friends concerning a special day or holiday.
Healing can actually come through remembering. Celebrate and remember those past days with a smile but also put your energy into making, and enjoying, new memories and traditions for the future.