You’re probably expecting me to say, “It’s really hard.” And if you are, then, you’re right. Almost anyone (even a non-griever) can come to the conclusion that the first year is really hard. Really, really hard.
It’s awful. And I actually hate saying that because there were some happy times during my first year (for which I’m incredibly thankful for), but at the same time, a lot of sad times. And there were definitely more sad times than happy times.
*Note: If you haven’t experienced grief, please know that the first year is absolutely not the “only” awful year. Grief and pain are like love, they will always be present, so please know that if your friend is grieving, the first year is tough, but so are are the years that follow it.
Before I continue, I want to note that the first year does not “only” apply to holidays and birthdays. It applies to everything.
The first year is filled with (what seems like) endless encounters with “a first.” So let’s split them up into categories and discuss them each in a little detail (and I’m sure I’m missing something because well, everything, is involved, but this is what I could come up with for now).
It’s not “just” the person you are grieving whose birthday is tough, it’s all of them. It’s yours. It’s your family members. It’s all of them. They’re tough. And there’s no way around that.
My birthday situation is a little different than the “norm” as my birthday was also my twin’s birthday. I think it’s the hardest and saddest day out of the year for me, but I’ll make a post dedicated to that at a later time.
So, how should you spend your deceased loved one’s birthday, your birthday, your loved one’s birthday, your family member’s birthday? I would celebrate however YOU want to. If you want a cake, get a cake. If you want to be left alone, don’t open your door. If you want to scream into a pillow, scream into a pillow. However you choose to spend the day does not minimize your love for the one you lost.
Marriages, deaths, sobriety, you name it. How do you celebrate them? Just like I suggested above, I would “celebrate” them however YOU want to. And I’ll say it again, however you choose to spend the day does not minimize your love for the one you lost.
You might be curious about this one, but for me, I notice when the seasons change (even here in Florida) and they can be very triggering. They can bring you back to a moment of time just like sounds and smells can.
When you enter into a new season of weather, it’s opening a door of the “firsts” that will occur during that season. For example: the cooler weather might indicate that fall is approaching and the holidays that take place towards the end of the year.
When seasons change, just be aware that you might be triggered and this is normal. It’s normal and it’s likely that it won’t “just” occur during the first year. It’s important to be aware of this. It’s also important for those around the griever to be aware of this because as excited as your friend may be that the cooler weather is here, for you, it means a season of holidays without your loved one.
This is (not shocking) also a tough one because we’re expected to have it “all together” in the school and/or work setting. And we don’t, which is normal. Walking back into school or work for the first time since your grief journey began is scary. You don’t know whose going to say what to you. You don’t know how you’re going to react to the comments. You’re stressed because you have responsibilities and things are expected from you.
It’s intimidating and as much as I hate to say this to you, you just have to walk through those doors and rip off the bandaid. It’s not fair. None of this is fair. Rip off the bandaid and keep your head high.
I’ll be dedicating a post to each holiday as they approach. Keep a look out for them.
This is like all the ones listed above, tough. It’s hard to see people for the first time. It brings up so many emotions and it’s a harsh reminder that your loved one is gone. It’s also hard to go to places that you used to go to. Again, it brings up memories, which bring up feelings and cause more heartache, if you thought that was even possible.
If your loved one is grieving, see my post 5 Things to Say to Your Grieving Friend to get some ideas on what might be appropriate to say when you see a grieving friend.
If you’re in your “first year,” I’ve been there and although I don’t completely understand what you’re going through, I can certainly relate.
Keep your head up and one foot in front of the other.