Emotions & Challenges:

Holidays, Anniversaries & Special Occasions

Many people find that holidays and special occasions magnify feelings of grief. Holidays are times when family and friends gather together to celebrate, but when loss is new, it may seem there is little to celebrate. Some survivors say they feel profoundly disconnected from the rest of the world at these times.

It’s important to know that eventually, holidays will get easier. When grief is fresh and feelings are raw, some things do help.

  • Make plans, but have an alternative plan: Many people find that knowing they have an alternative plan in place, should their emotions become too painful, is enough to get them through.
  • Don’t hesitate to take a year off from celebration of a holiday. You can resume and invent new ways to mark an occasion when you are feeling stronger.
  • Do what feels right. There is no need to follow past customs if you don’t feel up to it or think it is appropriate.
  • Find meaningful ways to remember and honor your loved one during the holiday. Display their photos, light a candle, prepare their favorite food. Our loved ones are no longer present in physical form, but they are still very much a part of the family.

Birthdays and Anniversaries:
It is common for emotions to heighten as one approaches the birthday or anniversary of a loved one’s death. These are times when our thoughts become especially focused on their death and their absence. Many survivors feel increased anxiety as they approach the first anniversary of loss, but later say their fears were, in fact, worse than the actual experience of the date. The birthdays and anniversaries of passing of loved ones will always be special dates – to be recognized and honored in ways that feel appropriate and meaningful to each person who mourns their loss.