Approaching the first of everything
Experiencing a death can make the ‘firsts’ of everything incredibly difficult.
The first Christmas, birthday and anniversary of a loved one passing often remind us of the people we lost, forcing us to face up to the fact they’re no longer with us. But while these occasions can be painful, they also offer us the chance to reflect on precious memories and commemorate our loved ones, giving these occasions a brand-new meaning.
It’s normal to feel sad, lost and even angry in the run-up to a special event – but you should never feel bad for celebrating. While there’s no right or wrong way to approach anniversaries and occasions after a death, we’ve got some tips on how to handle them.
Plan the day in advance
You can help prevent unwanted heartache by planning your celebration in advance. You might want to get the whole family together to celebrate the day – or perhaps you’d feel more comfortable watching films and eating nice food by yourself. Whatever you decide, figuring out the itinerary in advance will help empower you to cope with your feelings in the way you feel most able.
It’s important to be kind to yourself if you feel like changing your plans on the day. Similarly, if you agree to go to an event but don’t feel up to it, don’t be hard on yourself. You have to take things at your own pace. Your nearest and dearest will understand.
Write your feelings in a journal
In the run-up to a first event, it’s not unusual to have endless thoughts running through your head. You may feel fine one minute and upset about the thought of your loved one not being there the next. To help channel your feelings, try writing down how you feel. You might want to focus on:
- The challenges you’re facing
- How you’re trying to overcome them
- What’s making you feel most stressed out
- What you hope to achieve over the next year
- What’s made you feel good recently? It could be something as simple as a walk in the woods, feeling the sunshine on your face or having a laugh with a friend
You might also find it helpful to write your loved one a letter with everything you’d say to them if they were still alive. Take the letter to their grave or tuck it somewhere safe – like in a memory box or memorial. That way, you’ll feel closer to them.
Respect other people’s wishes
During Christmas, Easter and other shared events, you might find that your family and friends want to celebrate it differently to you. People deal with grief differently – and that’s completely okay. The important thing is to respect their wishes but also be sure to do what’s right for you. You don’t need to do anything you’re not comfortable with – and the same applies to your loved ones. You can all celebrate in different ways and come together when you’re ready to do so.
Find ways to honour their memory
Your loved one may have passed away, but that doesn’t mean you have to forget about them. By honouring their memory, you can include them as part of your celebrations long after they’re gone. You can do this by dedicating time to put flowers on their grave, doing something they loved or sharing stories about them with your friends and family. Plus, anniversaries and birthdays can allow you to reflect on precious memories, serving as a day to celebrate their legacy for years to come.
Start new traditions
It may help you to cope with your grief by starting new traditions. Time moves on, and so does the way we honour our loved ones. You could watch their favourite film on their birthday or cook their favourite meal. Whatever you do, it doesn’t have to be anything big. Try to find something that reflects them and their personality and it’ll feel like they’re with you in spirit.
Embrace your tears
If you feel sad and need a good cry, it’s better to let your emotions out than keep them bottled up. Tears aren’t a negative thing – they show how much you care. Crying can be healthy, so let your emotions guide you as you navigate through the first events after their death.
However you’re feeling, you never have to grieve alone. The GreenAcres team is here for you. When you lose someone you love, meeting others who can relate to how you feel can help. We offer a kind, supportive space with understanding from others who are also living life after loss.
We promise you a warm welcome from our experienced and compassionate team along with tea, coffee and cake! This event is FREE for anyone bereaved in the local community surrounding the Park. Find your nearest event here.
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