Tackling the firsts after a loss
Dealing with the first times after a loved one has passed can be upsetting. Your grief will more than likely still be very new so it can be difficult to navigate how you’re feeling.
No one knows what their grief journey is going to be like – it’s unique to each of us and there is no set path that it follows. After a year of firsts, you’ll be at a very different stage to those first few months and be starting to see that you will make it through the other side.
Unfortunately grief doesn’t ‘turn off’ after one year. What it does do, is get easier. You will have had time and space to think about your loved one and start healing from the loss. Anniversaries, birthdays and special occasions become easier and you’ll find yourself revisiting happy memories rather than feeling sad.
We understand that navigating the first year after a loss is challenging so have put together some ideas on ways to process your grief and remember your loved one.
Why are first times so difficult?
The first year after grief is really hard. Holidays, birthdays and special occasions can feel lonely, and for some people it’s a reminder of a future with a loved one that has been taken away.
What’s important during this time, and throughout your grieving journey, is to be kind to yourself. Take things slow and seek out support from family, friends or professionals.
How do I prepare for a special occasion?
Many of us want to ignore these first times because they are so painful. What can help is talking about the day as it can make you feel more in control of your emotions. It’s very normal for you to feel sad on these occasions. Grief is very different day to day, so you may actually be ok on the day itself.
Some things you can do in the weeks before are:
Take some time to look back at photographs and videos
Write a letter to your loved one
Talk to friends or family about how you are feeling
Speak about the person that you’ve lost and the upcoming date – this helps makes it feel real
During this time, remember to handle your memories with care. You choose which parts of the life you shared with your loved one you’d like to keep, and those parts you may want to leave behind.
Hold onto those moments, and when you feel ready take time to think back over them. Journaling those thoughts and memories may help with the healing process, as it gives you a chance to think about them in a safe space and something to look back on year after year.
How can I mark the occasion?
Something to think about doing on those important dates, is actually celebrating all that you have accomplished in the time since that special person passed. You’ve been working through your loss, so take time to acknowledge the journey that you’ve been on. It may be nice to do something special for yourself on that day – a massage, dinner or taking a trip to a calming place like botanical gardens or the beach.
If you do want to remember a loved one during a significant first time – and it’s ok if you don’t – there are a number of things you could do:
Arrange for family and friends to visit a special place – like the beach, or to their favourite walking spot
Create a memory box. Put photos, drawings and mementos in so that you can look back over it. This is something that you could start on the first anniversary and add to over the years
Light a candle
Listen to their favourite music or watch one of their top films
Give back to a meaningful cause – maybe a charity that was close to their heart
There are so many different ways to honour a loved one. What you choose depends on what makes you feel close to the person you have lost. Once you discover what brings you some comfort, do it year after year until it becomes a tradition and you create some happier memories with family and friends.
Each grief journey is different. Do what works for you and focus on things that bring you peace. Over time, the significance of the day will change. It will still mark the loss of your loved one, but it will also be filled with different memories of togetherness, joy and even a sense of calmness.
We never really get over our grief. What we do is find a new way to live with it – a new normal. The feelings of loss over time will soften and the intense pangs of grief and sadness will become less frequent. It just takes time for us to get to that point. So while you are on that journey, allow yourself to feel all your emotions, go steady and be kind to yourself.