The Road Ahead

Advice on managing special occasions and anniversaries

6-5 The Road Ahead

There are many people who have suffered this devastating loss who go on to live satisfying and fulfilling lives.

At times, they will have thought that they could not manage life following the suicide. The depth of the loss may never fully leave you, but even when it feels impossible to recover, know that there are others who know this experience and who have learned to live with it.


Anniversaries and Special Occasions

Some days may be more difficult than others. Occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and any special days you may have spent together with your loved one can bring a fresh wave of sadness. Although it can be draining, the pain felt on these occasions is a natural part of grief.

Sometimes the anticipation leading up to a special day can be more difficult than the day itself. You may wish to talk to friends or co-workers and explain the significance of the day. They may be able to act as a support person for you during this time.

It may also be helpful to make plans for these days in advance, to relieve stress in the lead-up to the day. For example, you may wish to talk with close family and friends about things you want to do on the day in honour of your loved one – this can be done together or alone.

Grief reminders

When a loved one dies, you might be faced with grief over your loss again and again — sometimes even years later. Feelings of grief might return on the anniversary of your loved one's death or other special days throughout the year.

These feelings, sometimes called an anniversary reaction, aren't necessarily a setback in the grieving process. These are a reflection that your loved one's life was important to you.

Tips to cope with reawakened grief

Even years after a loss, you might continue to feel sadness when you're confronted with reminders
of your loved one's death. As you continue healing, take steps to cope with reminders of your loss. For example:

  • Be prepared. Anniversary reactions are normal. Knowing that you're likely to experience anniversary reactions can help you understand them and even turn them into opportunities for healing.
  • Practise grounding techniques. This may include noticing your surroundings (naming things divided by your senses – what you can see, hear, touch, taste, smell) or turning your attention to your breath and how it feels in your body.
  • Plan a distraction. Schedule a gathering or a visit with friends or loved ones during times when you're likely to feel alone or be reminded of your loved one's death.
  • Reminisce about your relationship. Focus on the good things about your relationship with your loved one and the time you had together, rather than the loss. Write a letter to your loved one or a note about some of your good memories. You can add to this note anytime.
  • Start a new tradition. Make a donation to a charitable organization in your loved one's name on birthdays or holidays, or plant a tree in honor of your loved one.
  • Connect with others. Draw friends and loved ones close to you, including people who were special to your loved one. Find someone who'll encourage you to talk about your loss. Stay connected to your usual support systems, such as spiritual leaders and social groups. Consider joining a bereavement support group.
  • Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions. It's OK to be sad and feel a sense of loss, but also allow yourself to experience joy and happiness. As you celebrate special times, you might find yourself both laughing and crying.

When grief remains intense

There's no time limit for grief, and grief reminders can leave you reeling. Still, the intensity of grief tends to become more bearable with time.

If your grief gets worse over time instead of better or interferes with your ability to function in daily life, consult a grief counsellor or other mental health provider. Unresolved or complicated grief can lead to depression, other mental health problems and other medical conditions. With professional help, however, you can re-establish a sense of control and direction in your life — and return to the path toward a new normal.

A new normal

You will learn to grow your life around and with the loss – so that your loved one will always stay in your heart and in your life, without forgetting them or leaving them behind. There is no set timeline for your grief – you can take your time to experience your loss and find your way to a “new normal”.

It is important to reach out for support and assistance when you think it will be helpful. Research indicates that those who reach out often have better recovery. So, whilst it may never fully leave you, life can become a ‘new normal’.

You will never be the same again,
but you will have a life again,
you will wake up in the morning and feel good.
You will start to make plans for the future.
At some point, life will feel normal again;
not the old normal, the new normal.