Grief: Dealing with occasions

Grief: Dealing with occasions
pink tulips

I’ve written about grief a couple of times before on my blog and it’s one of those things which in some way, everyone will sadly be able to relate to. I’m by no means an expert and I’ve only ever written about personal experiences, but I’ll start this post by saying that if you’re struggling with grief and you want to talk to someone who will just listen, please contact Cruse Bereavement Care on 0808 808 1677.

One thing I’ve learned is that grief doesn’t have a time limit, nor does it have a set pattern. There’s no expiry on it. I lost my dad over four years ago and whilst experience teaches you how to deal with your emotions, there are difficult days, which often come with triggers. Birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas or any other day that was special to you. There have been years where I’ve gotten through Father’s Day and have been absolutely fine, and there have been days when I’ve been a mess. But both of those emotions are fine. I promise.

I wanted to write a list of a few things you can do to deal with such ‘occasions’ as whilst in you day to day life, you find your ‘new normals’ and adapt your routine to live without that person, the one off occasions, though infrequent, can throw you completely out of sync. I had no idea how I would be on such days after I lost by dad and I’ve found that my emotions have been fairly unpredictable each year, but I wanted to share the things that have helped me.

Do something entirely different
Sometimes, it takes flipping an occasion on its head and doing something you’d never have done with your that person to get you through the day. For example, on Christmas Day, my mum, sister and I go to the seaside during the morning for a walk on the beach and to eat icecream*, something we would never have been able to do with my dad as we were limited by care calls and of course, a beach isn’t exactly wheelchair friendly. But it means that our old Christmas traditions stop having a gaping hole where my dad should have been.

*Please note that whilst I would thoroughly advocate this idea, take your own icecream as there is no guarantee that a shop will be open.

Visit their final resting place
This can be a source of comfort to some people as it can make you feel closer to your loved one. Personally, I still find it upsetting for this very reason but it’s important to me to visit my dad’s grave, and take flowers, simply because it’s his legacy. Though as a builder, he really has a legacy all over York, this is a place of calm and an important mark of respect and remembrance for me.

Mark the occasion
Doing something symbolic to celebrate their life is a lovely gesture on the day, even if it’s something small like raising a toast to their memory. On my Dad’s birthday just a couple of months after he passed away, I marked it by setting off Chinese fire lanterns with some of my closest friends as I was at university. Unfortunately one hit a car and another landed in a tree, but I like to think that he’d have been looking down and smiling at an evening which was both emotional and a fire hazard.

See friends or family
If you want to be distracted, spend time with people who will be aware of the situation but not necessarily emotionally invested in it beyond their relationship with you. If you’d prefer to be around people who knew your loved one and understand more closely what you’re going through, do that instead. Sometimes you may feel obliged to spend it with certain people, but please remember that this is a time to put your own mental health first and gently explaining this doesn’t make you a bad person.

Do whatever makes you feel better
If that’s going out and getting smashed, do it (just be a responsible adult and leave enough cash at home to order a takeaway when you get in). If you want to sit in your PJs and wallow, do it, and make sure you have the appropriate snacks. If you want to go about your day as you would every other day as that’s what works for you, that is also absolutely fine. When it comes to grief, there should be no judgement into how you deal with it, it’s entirely up to you, providing you’re not endangering yourself or anyone else.

Change plans if you need to
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve worked my way through several significant occasions over the last four years and have reacted differently year on year. That means you may make plans and want to cancel them or you may change your mind after waking up and feeling OK that morning. Both are totally OK and people will understand.

They’re just a few things that you can do to mark significant occasions following the death of someone close, and if you have any ideas or would like to share your experience, please do so in the comments. I’m writing this in advance as I’m aware that Father’s Day is coming up which is a significant day for me personally, but I really hope this post has helped even just one person.

P.S If you’ve made it this far as I’m aware that it’s been a long one, thank you. Now go make yourself a cup of tea, you deserve it.

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