Many of us who have lost children are facing upcoming birthdays, graduations, and, of course, Mother’s Day in the next couple of months.
For me, May also includes the beginning of rehearsals for the show TEXAS in Palo Dura Canyon, which is the show my Andrew was a part of. The five young people killed in The Accident were coming home from the end of the season BBQ. We are invited to Opening Night each year.
Additionally, most of Andrew’s close friends are graduating this year…without him.
Anticipation of these events without our children can lead to anxiety and fear.
At just 32 months out, I am no expert on grief. But what I have found is that, for me, the anticipation is almost always worse than the actual day or event.
I considered not going to Opening Night that first year. The morning of Opening Night I was so upset I actually vomited! But I am so glad I went!
The event was wonderful! People showed us such love! And they shared stories of our son we had not heard. Some hugged us. Others simply smiled. But we knew we were loved, and we knew our son was not forgotten.
I encourage each of us to not let anxiety and fear overwhelm us or keep us from participating in activities. Especially activities involving our other living children. Once we miss an event, we cannot go back and recapture that time.
I’m not saying you should go to everything you have been invited to attend. We must use wisdom in deciding what is best for each of us. Especially in those early months when we are still so wounded, we must protect our hearts. There are events I chose to pass on.
But there are things that we must do, dates that will come whether we want them to or not. And there are ways to prepare for those events and dates.
To avoid being overwhelmed by anxiety or fear, prepare in advance. There are steps you can take to help make events more enjoys. Here are a few ideas that I have found helpful.
Take steps to prepare for events:
- Get plenty of rest before hand and eat well. Stay hydrated.
- Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol. It is a depressant and will make things worse.
- If you have a counselor, make an appointment to discuss coping techniques a week or two before the event.
- Choose your clothing well ahead of time. Pick something comfortable. Now is not the time to try a new style! Be sure you have a pocket for tissues.
- Talk with your spouse ahead of time about expectations. If it is a family event, talk with the family ahead of time about expectations. And remember it is not all about you.
- Think through what will happen that day. Logically, not emotionally. If the event starts at noon, what time will you need to be dressed? When will you need to leave the house? Have a game plan.
- If your spouse isn’t going, go with a friend who understands and is supportive.
- Sit near an exit in case you do need a time out. If you need to step out, don’t be afraid to try coming back in. Often taking a short break is enough and we can handle the rest of the program.
- This may sound silly, but be sure to use the restroom prior to any program such as a graduation.
- Don’t over schedule yourself! Carefully choose which events you will attend. We who grieve are wounded and may not be able to do everything we are invited to do. Politely decline those you cannot attend and send a card or gift instead.
- Some events are multi-part events. It’s okay to only attend one part. You may want to go to the ceremony of a wedding and skip the reception, for example. Or you may choose to skip the ceremony and attend the reception. Be sure to let the host know ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.
- Have an exit plan. If you don’t drive yourself, be sure that the driver is willing to leave when and if you need to leave
- Practice answers to questions like: How is your family? How many kids do you have? How are your holidays? Many at holidays events will not know you’ve lost a loved one. These events may not be the time share the whole story. It’s okay if you tear up, but remember that we still need to be sensitive to others. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves and our grief at the expense of ruining a celebration for others. Preparing a short answer ahead of of time may help you. I found that answering their questions briefly then turning the conversation to something else works well for me.
- If someone asks about your loss or comments about how hard it must be, “Thank you for your kindness, but I’d rather not discuss it right now” is a great answer.
These are just a few things that I try to keep in mind when preparing for an event.
For those of you farther along this road, what advice do you have?