When a loved one dies, it might seem that there are reminders of that person everywhere you go. Whether it's driving past a place that stirs up fond memories or hearing a song you both liked on the radio, these reminders can immediately transport you emotionally to a time when the loss was fresh. Although you'll always cherish the memory of your loved one, the impact of these reminders will diminish with time. Until then, here are some ideas for honoring your loved one's memory, and suggestions of where to seek help if you want or need it.
Commemorating your loved one on special days
As you move through the grief process, it's natural to experience reminders of your loved one in everyday occurrences as well as during significant events. These events might include birthdays, significant anniversaries and a host of holidays. You might find that these days remain painful even long after your loved one died. Despite your grief, you can also use them as special days for celebrating that person's life.
How can you celebrate and commemorate the life of your loved one? One family takes balloons to the high school track where their son had competed and lets them go with personal messages tied to the balloons. One widow picnics by the lake where she sprinkled her husband's ashes. Another family "celebrates" annually by having dinner together in a new restaurant that their daughter would have enjoyed. Creating a positive ritual that can be either fulfilled alone or shared adds powerful and supportive meaning to your loved one's memory.
When strong reminders of your loss occur, it may feel like you have moved backwards in your healing process, but you aren't necessarily regressing. Grief is not something that occurs once and then goes away forever. Like the ocean tides, it will lessen at times, or seem to go away completely. At other times it seems to come back at full force. As you move forward after your loss and experience significant reminders of your loved one, you will likely learn what feelings to expect and adapt to cope with them.
If you have ongoing trouble coping with reminders of your loved one or at any point feel overwhelmed by your grief, help is always available. Use the following resources for more information about the grief process and to access counseling services if you want them:
- Military OneSource can help provide you with further resources and connect you with a counselor.
- Military and family life counselors are also available to provide non-medical counseling services and can be contacted through your installation military and family support center.
- You can also visit the website for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a national organization offering a broad range of support, mentoring, and other services to those grieving the loss of a loved one whose death occurred while serving in the military services.
Reminders of your deceased loved one can suddenly stir up old feelings of acute pain and loss. By commemorating the person who died and leaning on your network of loved ones for continued ongoing support, you can celebrate your loved one's life while also finding the tools and coping mechanisms you need to heal.