It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.
Their birthday, your birthday, holidays, vacations, anniversaries, social gathering, all these events can be a challenge to face for the first time without the person with whom you usually shared them. I’d love to be able to tell you that all you have to do is make it through the first year of these events, then they get easier, but that’s not necessarily true. That said, we want to give you some simple tools that will help you prepare for some of your “firsts.”
Talk about them on that day.
Even though you’re the one who is supposed to be getting supported at this time, often it’s important that you bravely take the lead and speak first about your lost loved-one. It’s especially important that you refer to them by name. People around you will likely avoid mentioning your loved-one by name for fear of upsetting you. If you say their name first it gives people permission to talk about him or her.
Make a plan.
A lot of times people see that date on the calendar and dread the uncertainty of what it will hold. One thing you can do to exert some control over the day is to plan a schedule. You by no means need to absolutely stick with the plan, but just having a plan in place can take away some of the day’s uncertainty and offer you a better sense of stability.
Understand that others won’t be as affected.
Not everyone is going to remember your lost loved-one’s birthday or anniversary. It’s most likely not because they don’t care, but just that you’re closer to your loved-one’s absence than they are. If you need some support, there’s nothing wrong with letting your friends or family know that today would’ve been your 30th Anniversary, and that you’re really missing your spouse, or missing your mom on Mother’s Day, or your child on the first day of school. Just because someone doesn’t know how to offer help, doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to provide it. It helps if you’re willing to ask.
Create a memorial activity.
There is a brilliant book called, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, by Allison Gilbert, and it is full of ideas for memorializing your loved one through crafts, written and video projects, activities, or cultural experiences. You can also look up memorial activities online. Doing one of these activities may help you feel more engaged in remembering and preserving the memory of your lost friend or family member.
There’s a bunch of research out there confirming the psychological benefits of volunteering and now there is some evidence that it may lead to better overall health. Beyond that, if there is an important day coming up that you know is going to be an emotional challenge for you, consider helping others in need. Was there a cause your loved-one was committed to? Maybe plan to volunteer for that cause on the day, or get a group together to volunteer alongside you.