Losing a loved one is always difficult. Whether this is a parent, child, partner, or friend, the hole they leave in your life can feel enormous. For the first few years after my father passed away, I genuinely felt like it was a wound that I would never recover from. However, just because a person is no longer with us, that does not mean that we cannot look back on their memory with fondness.
My father was never one for emotions. He would much rather be fishing, shooting, or playing pool. I suppose, due to that, I have struggled more with his passing because he was not as emotionally available as I might have liked.
This year, on 25th April, he would have turned 80. I was fully prepared to spend the day locked up in my own mind, with only my negative emotions for company, yet this was not the case.
From this, I’d like to share some of the ways you can honour the memory of your loved ones. By all means, celebrate the days that signify something about their lives, but try not to let the negativity consume you.
Spend time with those still here
One of the dangers of grief is that it can stop you from enjoying the here and now. I spent a lot of time dwelling on the fact my father was gone, rather than considering what I do still have. Instead of grief, his birthday was spent with Mum, Ash, and Feena. Overall, I think it went rather well. We socialised with one another, had some food, and communicated. I took the time to mentally acknowledge those around me, and to bask in the gratitude of their lives, rather than keep my mind focused on death.
Consider their wishes
If your loved one genuinely cared about you, chances are that they wouldn’t want you to spend the rest of your life mourning. As tough as this sounds, there comes a time where you do need to pick yourself up and start engaging with life again. One anecdote I could share is that, while Dad was in the hospital, I was meant to be going away for the weekend. Obviously, due to his condition, I started second guessing that decision. When I brought it up, he made it clear that I was NOT to put my life on hold because of it. I suppose I took that to heart, considering how I now live over a hundred miles away from his grave.
Acknowledge your emotions
While it would be easy for me, and others, to tell you not to be sad, or not to cry, bottling up your feelings normally ends badly. Although it might not be necessary, or appropriate, for you to curl up and spend the day in tears, you should at least give some due thought to your feelings. Do you feel sad? Do you feel angry? Do you want to laugh at a funny memory? There should be no guilt attached, either. By owning how you feel, you may be better equipped to deal with those emotions as and when they come.
Avoid setting time limits
Even though I stated above that you do need to engage with life, that doesn’t mean you need to completely let go of the grieving process. That may come across as confusing, but it makes sense when you follow the process. They say that grief occurs in stages, however there is no strict time limit for when each stage will arise. While you should certainly resume as much of a normal, or rather new normal, life as possible, that doesn’t mean you need to set a marker as to when you will stop feeling sad. My example of this is, nearly 7 years after his death, I do still feel sad when I think about no longer having a father, however I also acknowledge how I feel, and understand that I need to still work and parent.
Use what works for you
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to grief. This includes the ways in which you celebrate their life. While it can be beneficial to spend time with others, as detailed above, there is a chance that you may prefer to acknowledge this day in private. Ultimately, the important thing to keep in mind is wellbeing. As long as you, and any dependents, maintain personal hygiene and nutrition, and do not engage in any risky behaviours, it is down to you how the day is spent, including if you opt to ignore it altogether.
Loss is something that really does affect different people in different ways. It is key that, when a person has suffered a loss, you do not try to get them to get over it immediately, but simply offer support and aid them with what they feel is best for them. Even within families, people may react differently to the loss of a person. That is completely normal. The only time it should become deeply concerning is if they are putting themselves, or others, at risk, or are unable to function.
As for me, I’m going to continue moving forward. Wherever he is, I hope my Dad had a wonderful 80th birthday, and knows how much he is loved and missed.