We like to think of holidays as celebrations but if you really think about it, they are actually just unavoidable markers of time. They provide a natural space to pause and look back on where you were and what you were doing at the same time in years gone by. In many cases this is a pleasant experience that allows you to reflect on how you have grown and what you have achieved over the last year.
But, for those who have lost a loved one, significant cultural events serve as reminders of how much time has passed and force them to consider the “what if’s” had someone still been around to celebrate.
One of the reasons that events like Easter, birthdays and Christmas hit so hard is because, at least in my own experience, grief and trauma have a tendency to warp time. “Has it really been that long?” is a phrase that is often heard amongst relatives and friends who have lost someone, especially during a holiday period when everyone is forced to reflect.
This is because during periods of grieving and trauma, it often feels like you are living in two different realities. One, where time moves slow and you can barely seem to put one foot in front of another and a second where you feel as if time has completely passed you by.
Holidays have a clarifying effect because they, at least briefly, force us to break out of our normal routines and as a result it can become harder to avoid or ignore the impact that grief is having on mental health.
Easter can be a particularly painful holiday to face for families and friends of someone who has passed because unless you are part of religious circles it doesn’t carry the same weight as events like Christmas or birthdays. This means that while you might have experienced people rallying around you during other large cultural events, Easter can sometimes fly under the radar because it is viewed as more of a long weekend and last chance to get to the beach.
So, is there anything you can do to make this weekend easier if you have lost a loved one?
Remember, there is no way to grieve someone correctly and this also means that there is not a magic number of years after a loss that means you have to “be okay” again. Try not to place too many expectations on yourself because what you feel up to will change from year to year.
Don’t feel that you have to keep traditions the same if they feel too painful. There is a tendency to make people feel like they need to keep traditions going in order to remember someone the “right way”. But, the reality is that you don’t owe anyone anything and the most important thing is that you take care of your own mental health. It is an extremely personal continuing a tradition makes you feel closer to someone you have lost then by
Never hesitate to reach out to those around you. While it can be difficult and defeating when those around you that you thought would be there don’t reach out first, it is important to remember that 99.9% of the time this is not malicious. In fact, it is more likely that someone won’t reach out because they are unsure of what to say. Most people will be there in a heartbeat if they are asked and calling on friends and family for support when you need it will make them feel more confident when it comes to checking in on you in the future.
Finally, if you find yourself struggling in the lead up to this weekend please text or call our TIACS support service on 0488 846 988 to speak to a qualified psychologist.