Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Day To Remember

There are so many days that trigger grief after the death of a beloved person in our life. Some days seem predictable like a birthday, anniversary or date of death but other days seem to come out of nowhere, sneak up on us and catch us unaware and unprepared. The first year after my son died I prepared for the predictable days like his due date (the day he should have been born) or the dreaded Mother's Day and Father's Day, days that I knew would be more difficult to celebrate. The days that I was not prepared for were days like New Years Eve, (leaving the year that Flynn had been born and died seemed unbearable) or my birthday that year because it reminded me that I was a year older and yet my infant son would never celebrate a birthday or blow out a candle. These unassuming days became days when my grief sideswiped me and knocked me off of my feet (on my birthday that year I did not answer the phone or allow anyone to wish me a "Happy Birthday"). They were days that the people around me did not recognize as triggers and yet how could they? I was just as unaware that any day could be a grief day no matter how far past the death I was. Acknowledging that these days exist and being gentle with ourselves to take the time that we need will help to recover from the days that knock us off our feet.
There are also the days that we can see coming and they need our attention too. I always talk to my families about "the plan," the preparation that they can make for the upcoming day that they appreciate will be hard. Knowing how they want to spend the anniversary of the death, for example, can make that day a little more bearable. It can help to ease the anticipation of that date (which is usually much worse than the day itself) and giving permission to scrap all plans if they just seem too hard, once that day comes, is also a good way to manage what these triggers have in store. Having a plan can mean many things; from finding a way to memorialize your loved one, to planning something for just you, to doing nothing and giving yourself permission to do nothing. I tell my families to take time to think about what they want to do, to make it realistic for their energy level and commitment and to have appropriate expectations for themselves and the people surrounding them (for example if it is the first anniversary and family is involved in the day, they may not be make the same commitment for years to come and will that be okay?).
Remember that these days are hard because they remind us of the death and how much we miss and love those who have died. The day will pass and hopefully the moments that we remember our loved one will bring us some comfort on these hard days.

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