Coping with anniversaries and special occasions #NationalGriefAwarenessWeek

It’s #NationalGriefAwarenessWeek and with holidays like Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching it can be a daunting time, leaving bereaved families feeling alone and isolated. Whilst families will always feel the absence of their loved one, these feelings are often intensified at special times during the year. Pam and Peter share what they found helped them cope following the devastating aftermath of their son Andrew’s death when he was killed in a road crash in 2007.

On the day

These are such difficult times for bereaved families and there tends to be a lot of ritual involved to which people usually conform. I guess for some maintaining that ritual is still extremely important, but I believe the bereaved should feel able to do whatever seems right or appropriate for them at the time. There are no boundaries for grief.

On the anniversary of Andrew’s birth and death we lay flowers on his grave. This gives us some time to reflect on what was and what might have been. We light a candle for him on the anniversary of his death. It symbolises the light that is missing from our lives now, but also the light he brought to our lives when he was alive.

He was killed on 10 December, so we spend time on that day with our widowed daughter-in-law, grandson and other family members putting up their Christmas tree. The aim of this is to make the day a positive experience for our grandson, however we are feeling.

Keeping a balance

Grief is emotionally and physically exhausting. Strategies to avoid depression are crucial and keeping busy and active is extremely important, but not at the expense of giving oneself space and time to grieve. It’s also important to look after oneself physically, so that one can cope with the grieving process. Basic things like eating and sleeping are so often badly disrupted by grief, especially when an untimely, sudden and violent death is involved.

Accepting support from others

This is so important, but also the strength to stand up for what feels right for you at a particular time, even if this involves apparently offending the other. Emotional volatility can often make it difficult for others to get it right, particularly in the early days. One just has to hope the other is emotionally mature enough to cope.

Talking about them

Although Andrew is no longer with us, he is very much part of the family. Comments such as “Andrew would really have enjoyed this” and “Do you remember when Andrew did this?” are made in a context appropriate to the present. So we have found talking and including Andrew very much part of the way we are both with family and friends.