With Mother’s Day coming up, and Father’s Day right behind, I know there are a lot of heavy hearts out there. Whether you are missing a child or a parent who has died, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that something, or rather, someone, is missing.
Recently I read a study about different ways to foster feelings of hopefulness. The point that most jumped out at me was that it helps immensely if you have something fun planned for the near future. A large part of the enjoyment from a planned vacation is actually the time you spend looking forward to it, anticipating what’s to come.
And so it is with our celebrations: A large part of the sadness associated with holidays after a significant loss is the dread that accompanies the days preceding them.
Here in America, it seems we have a major holiday every month. The aisles of stores are always filled with some kind of holiday merchandise. When you add the birthday and anniversary of your loved one’s passing, it is like being barraged non-stop by reminders that someone is missing. As if you could forget.
I have found a few effective solutions for dealing with holidays after a loss that I’d love to share.
The first is to take a trip and basically ignore the holiday by occupying yourself doing something different. It’s “escapism” on a healthy level. Honestly, I think it can really help a person or family get through the first few years after a passing. Things have changed, and a change of scenery often helps soften the blow.
The second practice that seems helpful is to increase your mindfulness in the days preceding the holiday. What exactly does that mean? It’s simple, really: Make a commitment to monitor your thoughts and change them. When you find yourself slipping down the slope of grief the week before a holiday, become aware of what you’re doing and make a conscious decision to take some time out. In that pause, take a deep breath and connect yourself physically to the earth. Remind yourself of where you are. You still have breath. It’s just another day. What would you be doing on this day if you hadn’t had a significant loved one pass?
Now take another deep breath and commit to taking an action to carry on “as if” a terrible day wasn’t looming ahead. This is called perseverance, and it’s tough.
My last suggestion is to make space for your grief within the celebration. Find something meaningful to you that creates a feeling of connection with your loved one. Here are some ideas:
-Set a place at the holiday table with a framed picture of your loved one.
-Take some quiet time that day to visit the memorial site with flowers or a small offering.
-Offer a whole-hearted toast to the loved one, and allow everyone to share a memory.
Make sure that everyone attending the celebration knows that it’s okay if you cry. Often, if you simply tell people, “Hey, if I break down and cry today, I want to thank you for being here and not being bothered by that.” In an ideal world, we would be surrounded by family and friends who give us the space to grieve. But often shows of emotion make people uncomfortable. You have the power to ease that discomfort by telling everyone in advance that you are okay with you crying, and thanking them for being that way, too.
And in all cases, seek solidarity with those who walk your path. No one knows the loss of a child until they have experienced it. Being surrounded and supported by people who “get it” is vital.
All separations in the physical world are temporary, and a spiritual separation can never occur. Even knowing this, it takes work to remember it when your emotions run especially high. I hope you always feel the love from your dear one in Spirit on your special days.
©Mollie Morning Star 2016. Short excerpts of this article may be shared on the internet, provided a live link back to this original source is used. Reproduction in print is prohibited.