Difficult Dates by the National Bereavement Service

In the approach to Christmas and Mother’s and Father’s Day, many charities post suggestions on how to manage these dates if you have experienced the death of someone close and are uncertain how you will cope with the painful reminders that these celebratory days bring.

But what about all the other days that are significant in your calendar, but nobody else’s? Close family and friends may remember birthdays and a wedding anniversary for a few years. They might contact you to say, ‘thinking of you’. However, the chances are that the anniversary of your first date, the special trip you took together and so much else will go unnoticed by everyone but you. 

If there’s a date coming up that you know will be especially difficult for you it’s good to be prepared in advance. You may expect that the first anniversaries without the person you love will be difficult for you. Subsequent anniversaries can be too, and they may bring an element of guilt that you’ve not only survived but are finding enjoyment in life again when you never imagined it would be possible.

So, how can you be prepared?

First of all, you can prepare yourself by recognising the significance and the difficulty you may face on a special day. From there, you can take some degree of control to help yourself through. This might be by deciding to have as normal a day as possible, whatever normal looks like in your current circumstances. Alternatively, you might want to do something significant to mark the day. This might be lighting a candle in front of a favourite photograph and setting it on the table when you eat. It might be a special day trip to a favourite location, taking time to sit on a bench remembering times together.

Then there will be days which become difficult that you cannot plan for. Perhaps someone says something carelessly unkind to you. Even if you control your reasonable anger, it then becomes more difficult to staunch the subsequent tears.  Perhaps someone or something reminds you of the person who has died in a way that’s unexpected, and which leaves you feeling like you are back in the very early days of your grief. Don’t worry on days like these. The clock has not gone backwards – these moments will happen and are extremely painful. They are yet more evidence of how closely your lives were intertwined and interdependent.

Sometimes a deep breath and a moment to compose yourself will be all you need, or a coffee or comfort break. Occasionally it will also be right to apologise to whoever you are with at work or a social event and then escape for breathing space. The day is not wasted – this is more of the emotional work that grief demands of you. Difficult yes, but impossible – no.

If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, please contact The National Bereavement Service for help and support on 0800 0246 121 

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