Every day of the year, someone is acknowledging the death of a loved one. Although one never forgets the death date, in time the day can pass and one may find solace in the routine of going to work and the every day routines of life.
When a loved one dies on a holiday there is no way of forgetting the events which happened. Society spends months promoting national holidays such as Easter, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Friends and co workers always want to know “What are you doing for ___________?” For a griever, there is no hiding from the constant reminder that the day is coming.
When the anniversary date is on a holiday, the griever often struggles with wanting to share with others that this is the date their loved one died vs. simply trying to act as if everything is ok. After all, who wants to be the downer of the holiday?
Today marks 33 years since the death of my father. I am never able to ignore the continuous passing of time since his death. Employers provide me with this day off and I am told by magazines and entertaining shows that I should be planning a cook out and watching fireworks. My city provides a two to three day celebration. The rest of the world says I should be celebrating.
This day marks the time when my life was permanently changed. Like most who lose their parents at young ages, I mark my life as “Before Dad Died” and “After Dad Died”. I would do this regardless of the death date but having this day fall on a holiday feels as if it marked in a more significant manner.
Many individuals lose their loved ones on a holiday. The deaths are accidental and tragic and some are expected from a terminal illness. As a grief counselor, I have worked with individuals who have struggled with all of the major holidays, specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas. For holidays such as Easter, Memorial Day and Labor Day which have varying dates, some individuals may always mark the death by the Holiday rather than the specific death date.
I have been able to utilize my own personal experience as I worked with individuals who must deal with various holidays. I’ve encouraged them to make adjustments and changes during the first years after the death. Everyone struggles when the pressure is felt to keep things “as they have always been.” True, the holiday will never be like it used to be but it doesn’t have to be permanently horrible.”
It is always important to care for yourself at the anniversary date but more so when it is a holiday. Here are a few suggestions.
- Consider the significance of the holiday to you. Is it a holiday which you feel strongly about? (this often happens with religious holidays)
- What do you want to do? Perhaps you do want to get together with family but on a smaller scale? Perhaps you want to attend a church service but need to do it at a different time or another church.
- Tell others what you need (or tell them you don’t know what you need).
- Acknowledge the day in whatever form you need to. You may need to visit the cemetery or watch a DVD, look at photographs. Reminisce and tell stories.
- Practice some type of self care. Meditate, exercise, or journal.
My 4th of July plans will never be overwhelming but for many years I have been making attempts to participate in activities. Last night we attended the city’s Patriotic Concert. Tonight we will be going to a major league baseball game. We go to cook outs and enjoy the company of our friends. There have also been years when it rained and we have gone to a movie or binged watched episodes on TV.
Holiday anniversaries can be difficult. With self care and time, they can become manageable and even enjoyable. I am proof of it.