Coping with special occasions when someone has died

- 23/08/21

For someone who’s grieving, little things can suddenly trigger a wave of sadness. Even some time after the loss, finding a favourite photo, visiting a place with treasured memories or just the scent of their perfume can suddenly bring all the pain rushing back. Grief doesn’t start strong and diminish slowly over time, it comes and goes and has its ups and downs.

One of the most difficult triggers of grief to manage is a special occasion, such as the birthday of a loved one or the first Christmas after their death. It’s on these days that their absence can be most acutely felt. Other special days like Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day, wedding anniversaries and special family events can all magnify the absence of the deceased and re-trigger the grief. Just when you think you've gotten over the worst feelings of loss, the sadness comes flooding back.

So how do you get through these special occasions and turn them into something positive rather than something to be endured? Here are a few thoughts that could help turn the day into a celebration of your loved one’s life rather than a reminder of their loss.

  • Take charge and organise as much of the day as you can. Plan events and keep active. If you control the day, it won’t control you.
  • Why not mark the day with a get-together with family and friends? Redirect your energy to focus on the people who are still in your life and who can brighten up dark days.
  • Make the deceased’s birthday a positive celebration. Bring out the old photos, remember the good times together and treat it as an opportunity to reminisce rather than a day to mourn.
  • Don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself. It’s common to feel guilty about laughing or smiling when you’re grieving, but remembering the funny and joyous side of your loved one’s personality can have a strong healing effect.
  • Mark the day with a gesture in memory of your loved one. It could be as simple as lighting a candle or making a charity donation in their memory.

And remember, there’s no right way or wrong way to grieve – each person’s grief is unique to them. But when you have a day approaching where you know you may feel your loss more strongly, let friends and family know and be receptive to their concern and support