Grief is a state of emotion we will all feel at some point in our lives. Some earlier than others. I first experienced real grief when my mother passed in November of 2015. I was only nineteen and a sophomore in college. She was my best friend, and I went to her for nearly everything. I felt lost after losing her and struggled as my life was changing rapidly. I still have periods of grief three and a half years later, especially around the holidays, major life events, her death anniversary, and of course, her birthday, which is on April 1st. As her birthday draws near, I look towards ways of giving myself space to feel the grief of losing her, but also ways to honor her. Here are five ways to breathe through a late loved one’s death around major and even small events:
Give yourself the day off.
After my mother’s death, I went straight back to school. Literally the day after her funeral. Everyone at college was amazed that my sisters and I went back so soon, but we knew our mother wouldn’t want us to sit around and cry. Since then, I now know that it is very important to give yourself space when you need it. Special events tend to stir up memories, wishes, and emotions, so giving yourself even ten minutes to sit and allow yourself to feel everything will help you cope with the rest of your day.
Take a symbol of who they were and find a way to incorporate it into your life.
I find keeping a symbol of my mother brings me great comfort. Her favorite animal was the elephant, her favorite holiday was Christmas, and her favorite flower was yellow roses. I have a few elephants scattered around my house where they look nice, I wear a rubber bracelet (ones you receive when donating to a cause, etc.) that has her name, birth and death date, a heart and a Christmas tree on it that I wear all the time. I have a vase with fake yellow roses that sit on my entertainment stand. As a composer, I wrote a flute solo in memory of her that I have the tendency to play more around these events, and it was my way to commemorate her in my senior recital. I find keeping symbols or even doing something in their name is a great way to honor them.
Don’t be afraid to let yourself cry.
This goes along with giving yourself space, but even though you may give yourself space, you may not necessarily allow yourself to cry. I have a hard time letting myself cry and have the instinct to hold it in. I will sit and let myself to feel my emotions, but have a hard time allowing the watergates to open, which is actually more exhausting than having a good cry. If you need to cry, then please cry. Crying is our body’s way of ridding itself of intense emotions.
Visit your loved one’s resting place if you’re able to.
If you are able to then visit them. You don’t have to talk to them or even believe in the afterlife. Visit their resting place and ponder fond memories. Maybe clean up their stone, dust their urn, or look at the area they were spread at. It is okay if you are not able to or you don’t feel ready to. We all heal at different speeds.
It is okay to not be okay.
We live our lives trying to show our best selves, but know that it is okay not to be okay because no one has a perfect life. Try to find a close friend, relative, or even a counselor to talk to for a pair of listening ears. Find someone to just be with you and even if you don’t want to talk because sometimes a presence speaks louder than words.
These are just a few ways to help. Keep them in mind if you are dealing with grief on any day, especially holidays and events. There is no timeline for grief. You will have good days and bad days. As my mother told me: take it one day at a time.