Chapter 5: Your changing relationships with other people

Special occasions

I've been there
David talks about traditions, special occasions, and creating new memories.(3:22)Video transcript
David remembers the bittersweet feelings of the first Christmas without his wife.(3:22)Video transcript

There will always be pain in me, especially around the anniversary of the death.

Birthdays and holidays can be tough. All of the memories of our times together flood back and my tears flow.

You may find it distressing if a special event, such as a birth, wedding anniversary, graduation, holiday, or anniversary of your spouse’s death, causes your grief to resurface. It’s also possible that you won’t react as you thought you would, perhaps wondering where your grief has gone.

Acknowledging to yourself and others that the event or holiday will be difficult or different without your spouse is a place to begin. Family and friends may be able to help you create options to make things easier.

Most people find that the days and weeks leading up to a special event, anniversary, or holiday are more difficult to manage than the actual day. The anxiety associated with anticipation or expectations can be very distressing.

What may help

Plan ahead, but be flexible. It’s okay to change your mind, even at the last minute.

Think about how you might want to spend the day: Are there people you would like to have with you or avoid? Are there places you’d like to be or avoid? Are there traditions you might still enjoy? Are there some you’d like to skip?

Tell friends and family what you need and ask for their support. If you’re not sure, ask for their help.

Rather than turning down invitations because you aren’t sure how you might feel once you’ve accepted them, let others know that you need their understanding if you need to cancel or leave.

Consider asking a trusted friend to be “on standby” in case you need company at a time when you thought you’d rather be alone (such as on your spouse’s birthday).

You may want to include a symbolic or concrete way of acknowledging your partner, your relationship, and your loss, such as:

  • Spending time in prayer or meditation
  • Lighting a candle or playing music
  • Adding a memorial space or plant to your home
  • Creating a photo album or scrapbook
  • Giving yourself or someone else a gift in your spouse’s memory

Helpful resources - Grief: Special Days and Holidays – Module 4 - Moving through grief  - Module 2 - Understanding grief