Surviving the “Firsts” After Loss

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.

tough times aheadEven 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.

bereaved man with a balloon

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.

Give back.

celebration of lifeThere’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.

What do you do to remember on special days?

Thanks for visiting Grief Compass. We’re sorry you have to be here, but are glad we’ve found each other.

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3 thoughts on “Surviving the “Firsts” After Loss

  1. Taelor, I read every email you send and they are always helpful to me. They’re “spot on” with the loss of my husband of 53 years. Its unbearable as he was my hero, my soulmate and the love of my life. We were together all the time and liked the same sports we played ( tennis and pickle ball) and enjoyed traveling, the theatre, everything!! We were joined at the hip.

  2. I very much appreciate this email my sisters and I will be celebrating our mothers birthday tomorrow. Don’t know how we will feel but it’s part of my grieving for my wonderful mother. She is missed very much and will still touch our lives in many more ways.

  3. It’s been four months since Tom is passed now but the funny thing is I planned this day at his funeral. The whole family is going down to the St. Croix River where Tom would take a lot of walks and we’re having a picnic and celebrating his life. We will then go down to the river spread some of his ashes and release some bright yellow balloons because he was always so sunshiny. I’m really looking forward to being with the family and celebrating Tom’s life once again! Thank you for the site it is so helpful you have no idea. I’m sure we will have a wonderful day in honor of Tom.

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