When you are grieving and finding life really hard, the thing that can be ‘the last straw on the camel’s back’ is the approach of a big event. In particular, something that has meaning and emotion attached to it. Some examples might be a date on the religious calendar like, Eid, Divali or Christmas, it could be the wedding of a child or relative, the christening of a baby, an important birthday or wedding anniversary. The possibilities are endless. Either way it looms over you and dread sets in.
The thing I have noticed is that the lead up to the event is very often the worst time of all. Sometimes months before the event fear usually sets in, and emotions run high. You might worry that you won’t be able to hold it together at the event, that you may not be able to stop crying, that you will collapse (perhaps even on the floor) or that you will embarrass yourself and your family.
In the worst case scenario, you might picture yourself unable to actually get there. Perhaps stranded in the bedroom, unable to leave your room for fear of how the day will unfold. As the date gets closer, the fear mounts and becomes something you live with, all the while dreading the inevitable.
Thoughts like, “I don’t want to go
”, “I can’t go
”, “I’ve got no-one to go with
”, “there will be no-one to retreat to
”, “it doesn’t feel safe
”, “what if I want to bolt
”, may go through your mind. You would not be alone in these thoughts. Many people struggle with social functions after the death of someone they love, especially if that person is someone you have relied on. Confidence is often running on empty, and it is natural and common to feel like this.
If you have been part of a couple, the adjustment to being alone is a huge one. There are so many ‘firsts’ to contend with. The first Christmas, the first birthday, the first anniversary, the first summer, the first wedding on your own. They are all difficult, but the second time you do it, it will be a little easier, I promise. Maybe not easy but easier than the first time.
From my own experience and that of my clients, I would say that often the waiting period for such an event is often worse than the day itself. Often, all the worrying and angst is done in the lead up, and if you can plan the day in a way that works for you then you may very well find that it actually goes OK (surprisingly!)
Here are a few strategies my clients have told me helped them:
Doing exactly the same as you would have done if the loved one were there.
Finding new family rituals, or new ways of doing things.
Spending the day in a completely different way altogether.
Asking a friend to accompany you to an event (in place of the person who has died).
Giving yourself permission to leave early if you want to (have an escape plan!)
Leaving the radio/TV/lights on in the house so you don’t come back to a silent, dark house.
Make a schedule for the day.
Carry something that belonged to the beloved with you (to keep them close).
Decide to be brave, even when you don’t feel it (sort of fake it to make it idea).
Try to ensure you can rest afterwards, and get plenty of sleep before and after if possible.
Be really kind to yourself, it is tiring emotionally and physically to go through these times.
Tell someone how you are feeling, don’t keep it a secret, and ask for support, people probably really want to help you.
If you have any tips or suggestions for others who are grieving and struggling with a big day approaching, please join the conversation below. Your ideas are invaluable.
If you are reading this and thinking of trying counselling, you can contact me here