What are some things you can do on important grief days?
The first anniversary of my dad's death was weird. I knew that I was going to be really upset and have a hard day, but I didn't really know what else would happen. I felt like I should do something to acknowledge the day, but I wasn't sure what.
I had the same feeling on my dad's birthday. After trying to figure out what I should do, I finally realized that what would've made him the happiest was if I didn't spend each birthday upset, and instead made sure I had a good day.
I still felt like I needed to do something for the anniversary of his death, though, but I couldn't figure out what. I actually still haven't figured it out, and each year when it's close to that date I try to think of something, but I never can (which has sort of become a tradition itself). So, if you're in the same situation I am in, whether it's for an anniversary, holiday, or any other other important day, I've made a list of things you can do to "celebrate" or acknowledge the day.
1. Visit your loved one's grave.
This may be an obvious idea, but visiting your loved one's grave can be comforting. You can get flowers, have a picnic, or bring something else they loved and spend a bit of time there. And, if you know you'll be upset after, you can plan to spend time with friends or family after, or have them come with you.
2. Do something they loved
Sometimes the best way to remember someone is by doing the things they loved. If your loved one used to read a lot or go on lots of walks, try it out!
If you do this, though, don't feel bad if you end up hating the activity they choose. All people aren't the same, and just because your loved one liked doing something doesn't mean that you have to enjoy it as well.
4. Get together with family and friends (virtually, too!)
On important days involving my dad, I usually enjoy spending time with myself and then making plans to call or spend time with one of my friends. It can be nice to be around friends and family if you need cheering up, or if you need to talk about what's going on.
If the coronavirus is bad where you are, you can also virtually meet up with people. You can talk to whoever you live with about scheduling a Zoom meeting or FaceTime with your friends and family.
5. Spend time with people who knew your loved one
While friends and family can cheer you up, it can also be nice to be with people who are experiencing similar pain with your loved one's death. If you want to be with people who understand what you're going through, make plans to spend time with your loved one's family, friends, or others who were important to your loved one.
6. Talk about your loved one with someone
I didn't used to talk about grief with my friends because I thought that, because they hadn't gone through something similar, they couldn't help. I've learned that that is actually far from true. Some of the best conversations I've had about grief are with people who haven't experienced it. Ask someone you care about if you can talk about your grief with them. It's worth it.
7. Do something that makes you happy
Special days don't have to be spent dedicated to your loved one. If you think you're going to have a bad day, you don't have to plan a day full of things your loved one used to enjoy. Step back and take care of yourself. Spend time with friends, do an activity you enjoy, and take care of yourself.
8. Look through photos
Looking through old photos is a great way to remember your loved one. Looking through old photos has often led me to remember memories I didn't even know I had, and has helped me remember my dad even more.
9. Do something meaningful
A special day can inspire you to do something meaningful, whether it's for yourself or others. Things such as volunteering, helping whoever you live with, or doing something that you have been meaning to can help you feel better.
10. Recreate a memory or tradition
What's your favorite memory with your loved one? Or, what's a tradition you miss doing? A way you can remember your loved one is by recreating a memory or tradition, or visiting a place you remember going with your loved one. If other people were involved in these, you can invite them too, and you all can remember your loved one together.
If you don't want to recreate a memory, you can also create new ones with people you love.
12. Write a letter to your loved one
I write letters to my dad sometime, talking about my life, things I wish I could talk to him about, and questions I have for him. While it can be hard to write at first, it's always made me feel better after.
13. Take care of yourself
The most important thing you can do on a special day is take care of yourself. If you make plans ahead of time and realize last minute that you need time to yourself, that's okay. You don't have to create traditions or do something special. It's okay to just take care of yourself, and to ask your friends and family for a little extra support.
Special days are always hard, and traditions can help make them a little bit easier and memorable. If you have any traditions you want to share, please comment them below.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Charisse Kenion.