|The picture above is how I spent early Thanksgiving morning for three years after Mark died. I knew it was going to be a tough day. I wanted to plan for it and honor my pain and him in some way. At 6:30 am, I grabbed the chest with his ashes and put it on my car passenger seat. I drove through Starbucks and got a peppermint mocha, my favorite holiday drink. I went to the beach and sat at a place that meant something to us.
I sat on a blanket with his ashes next to me. I played music on the speaker of my phone, sat there and sobbed and sang. I must have looked weird, but I didn’t care. That was good for me! I was grieving and healing at the same time. I did that for three years. By the fourth year, I didn’t need to do it.
That ritual for three years comforted me and I have special memories of those times – even though they hurt.
What might you want to do on one of your tough days ?
When you have lost a loved one, certain days are more significant than others as they remind us more specifically of the person who died. These days can be tough – anniversaries, birthdays, the anniversary of their death, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. You can identify many occasions when your loved one’s absence will be felt more deeply.
You may think it means you are not “getting over it” or you are “getting worse” when you start to ache more or feel overwhelmed. It can be discouraging if you do not understand how grief works. Grief comes in waves. You can be doing pretty well and suddenly get knocked to your knees by a big crashing wave. That is to be expected on days like these. I like what Dr. Bill Webster calls them – Temporary Upsurges in Grief or TUGs. They are temporary, but that is hard to believe when you are going through them.
Coping with TUGs
The first thing you need to know about these days is that you are not moving backward in your grief journey when they hit. If you can learn to allow yourself to feel the loss and plan how to deal with the day, it is actually an opportunity to remember your loved one’s death and life and a chance for you to get some control back. Grief invites us to remember, not to forget.
Trying to ignore the occasion or pretend it is just like any other day is unnatural and increases the tension. It takes more energy to avoid the situation than to confront it.
1. Plan in advance
2. Observe these days in ways that are comfortable and meaningful for you.
3. Plan a departure from your usual activitiesPick who you want to be with
4. Pick who you don’t want to be with
5. Don’t wait for people to remember
6. Give yourself permission to cry
7. Give yourself permission to feel good
8. Feel and express your feelingsRemember your loved one and your memories
9. Don’t be afraid to have fun
10. Your loved one died but they also lived. Find a way to celebrate their life.
Planning is a crucial step when it comes to coping with these days. Planning ahead can make the day more comfortable and meaningful for you. You can plan a departure from your usual activities, choose who you want to be and decide how to remember your loved one.
Don’t wait for people to remember – reach out to those you want to be with and let them know how you feel. Give yourself permission to feel and express your feelings, whether crying or laughing. Remember your loved one and your memories, and don’t be afraid to have fun in a way that honors their life.
Remember, you hurt much because you loved much. And your pain is a reflection of your love. Don’t give up my friend. Hang in there. We know it’s tough. We promise you there is hope!
At our widow retreats, we address how preconceived notions about how we should behave when we are grieving can...