There are many ways to approach holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. We suggest you start by looking at the calendar and thinking about what was happening last year. We also suggest you do an inventory of your concerns for the year ahead.
Mark your calendar for two reasons. First, mark the significant days in your loved one’s last year before his or her death. Include milestones in his or her illness. Second, mark the days with special memories like a birthday or anniversary and holidays you celebrated together. This helps you plan for days that may be more tender for you. It is important to plan for these days so you will not be blindsided by the anxiety or sadness that may suddenly emerge.
Ask yourself the following questions in preparation for the year so you can ask for the kinds of support and alone time you may need to schedule for each of these dates or seasons.
1. What will be the most difficult this anniversary or holiday for you?
2. What will make it most difficult and why?
3. How did you celebrate this day last year?
4. Who do you find most supportive in your grief?
5. How are they supportive in ways other people may not be? What makes their support more
6. Who are the most difficult people for you to be around, especially during special days?
7. Do you know what makes them more difficult to be around?
8. Are you concerned your grief will be triggered unexpectedly on this day?
9. How would you like to remember him or her on this day?
10. How can others help you on this significant day?
11. What rituals or practices do you want to retain or create to honor your loved one’s memory?
If you start with the hardest holiday or anniversary it may be easier to plan and appreciate other special days. Ask trusted family members or friends to review these questions and in some cases keep you honest about what you need and don’t need. If they are also grieving the death of this person, ask if they would share their answers to these questions too so you can honor their needs. When you accept invitations to be with others be sure to remind the host that you are grieving. If you have to cancel at the last minute or leave early they will be prepared to understand and be gracious.