Preparing for Important Dates

By Linda Lehmann, M.A., L.P. 

As you continue to grieve your loved one there will be dates in the calendar year that have particular meaning to you and your family such as holidays, your loved one's birthday, or the day and date your loved one died. As each of these days approach, your grief can be re-triggered as you think about, mourn and miss your loved one. Because these days can carry with them quite an emotional wallop, you may be facing these days with a sense of dreaded anticipation.

It is important to recognize that the intense reactions that are so often present on these poignant days are normal because it is then when we feel such a strong connection to those who have died. That is why it is so important to plan for these days well in advance of them. It is important to be intentional about how you move toward these days. You do not have to be a victim to these dates. There are things that you can do that will honor the memory of your loved one, acknowledge your loved one to others and help you take time out to reflect and memorialize him or her.

Over the years it has been our observation that the families who create meaningful rituals and events on these important dates find great comfort and solace in them because they are viewed as expressions of their love. These rituals also have the capacity to draw in others who care about you and your dear one. Often others who are in your circle of acquaintances, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends are not always sure how to approach these days. They may feel ill-equipped to support you because they are not sure what to do or say. When you invite them to participate in your plans, they may be delighted that they are being given the opportunity to support you in ways that are acceptable to you.

So, as you face these days, consider the following:

  1. Who do you want to spend the day with? Will you take the day off of work? Who do you want to be with you? Do you want just your immediate family with you or do you want to invite others to spend the day or part of the day with you? Do you have a need to spend some time alone that day?
  2. Where do you want to be? Do you want to spend the day at home? At the cemetery? At church? Spend it in a place that offers you comfort? Take a trip and be in a different setting?
  3. How will you spend the day? Here are some ideas:
  • Visit the cemetery – bring flowers, balloons, other gifts.
  • Have a picnic at the cemetery.
  • Burn a candle all day in memory of your loved one.
  • Put a memorial in the newspaper.
  • Light a candle in church or donate flowers for the altar at your church.
  • Send out a notice to others asking them to wear your child's favorite color on that date, or send out a ribbon that is a color that has meaning and ask others to wear it on that date.
  • Donate money to your favorite charity in memory of your loved one.
  • Plant a tree in your yard.
  • Eat your loved one's favorite food that day.
  • Look at pictures, videotapes, etc that include your loved one.
  • Release balloons (that are bio-degradable using biodegradable raffia as the string).
  • Spend some time in solitude reflecting on your loved one's life.
  • Share stories and remembrances of your loved one with others.
  • Write a letter to your loved one giving him or her an update on your life and anything else you might want to say. Take the note to the cemetery or burn it and let the smoke take it to your loved one.
  • Buy something for yourself or your family that you can place in your home in memory of your loved one.

In making your plans be sure to have an escape plan. The escape plan will give you an out on that day if you wake up and find that you do not have the physical or emotional energy to carry out your plan. Without judgments or self-lectures, just allow yourself to do what feels right for you. Make this a day to connect with your heart and to connect with your loved one. If you give yourself the gift of time and intention on important dates it will help you enormously as you tend to the wounds of your grief.