On the 19th “Angel-versary” of my daughter, Jenna’s, passing, I join her sister and mother in sending her all my love and feeling her close. I also send my love to the other family members and close friends who lost loved ones in that accident. On this day, my heart and prayers go out to those grieving the unspeakable loss of a loved one to mass murder (in France), war, hunger, air disasters, gang violence, suicide, accidents and illnesses. The “Do’s and Don’ts of surviving loss, tragedy and adversity teach us best practices for handling the anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and milestones that follow. Decisions about what to do, and not to do, set the stage for us to either be re-traumatized, or to find ways of gently honoring and remembering them and helping our hearts to mend.
A few Do’s:
- Keep it simple. Less is more. Take the pressure off yourself to make that day the “be all, end all” of memorials.
- Don’t let yourself be pressured or bullied into doing something that you already know is not going to be good for you.
- Surround yourself with people who support you and give you energy, not those who drain you.
- Plan to do something that allows you to feel effortlessly close to your loved one. A simple walk in the park, mountains or on the beach — or a family meal with their favorite foods, can be just right.
- Consider switching things up and celebrate/remember/commemorate the day or week before the actual anniversary, holiday or birthday to take some of the sting out of the actual day.
- When people ask how you’re doing, tell them “The best I can under the circumstances” or “Just as you’d expect” and leave it there.
- Siphon off some of the emotional intensity by talking/venting with trusted family, friends or fellow support group members.
A few Don’ts:
- Don’t “load up” emotionally in the days, weeks and months prior to the day. These are already emotionally charged days.
- Don’t overdo it! Trying to do too much to prove your love and squeezing it into one day is never a good strategy.
- Don’t pressure others to follow a plan for the day that might not be the best thing for them. No guilting or controlling!
- Don’t ever feel you have to apologize for grieving. It’s what you need to do, even if it makes others uncomfortable, and you’re apology is unnecessary.
- Don’t listen to anybody who is sending you the message that you should be getting “over it,” prescribing a “quick fix,” putting their favorite psychological or spiritual/religious “spin” on your loss or judging you as weak and/or incapable of getting through your loss. Politely excuse yourself and get out of there.
- Don’t feel like you have to explain how you’re doing, especially with people who are not really capable of empathizing. These are also the people who most often say insensitive things.
- Don’t enter the “torture chamber of guilt.” It has no redeeming value. And only makes things worse. Stop yourself and walk to the “chamber of self-compassion” where actual healing can take place.
May this day pass gently and give way to brighter days for us all.
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Dr. Ken Druck is a renowned resilience expert, speaker, and grief counselor. He is the author of The Real Rules of Life (Hay House) and many other books. Visit www.kendruck.com, to sign up for Ken’s email list and receive a free copy of his guide, “How to Coach Yourself Through Almost Anything,” or to invite him as a speaker for your event.
Photo Credit: Bill Bellamy
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