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Coping With Grief During the Year of Firsts

After experiencing a loss, the first year can be one of the most challenging times in the grieving process. Whether it’s a holiday, birthday, or anniversary, those firsts without your loved one present can trigger complicated feelings. Though the firsts aren’t easy, there are things you can do to help make them a little more tolerable.

For many people, the days and weeks leading up to a ‘first’ can be filled with anticipation and dread, but having a plan can help it go more smoothly. “Take that day to honor your relationship with that person, whatever that looks like for you,” says Neesha Roberts, Manager of Clinical Program Development at Centerstone, “It’s okay to do things that bring you joy, too,” she adds. Sometimes, those who are grieving feel survivor guilt for feeling joy after their loved one has passed, but re-inventing the day allowing it to bring joy, in addition to sadness, can be helpful in processing grief. Whether you share stories about that person with loved ones, partake in their favorite activities, or eat their favorite foods in an effort to feel close to them, feeling joy is allowed. Depending on the situation, some people may not be at a point where they’re ready to remember the day with joy, and that’s okay too.

While grieving, you may avoid acknowledgement of the upcoming firsts because you don’t want to feel the pain, and those close to you may also avoid bringing it up because they’re afraid of hurting you by mentioning the person who has passed. Though avoidance is common, don’t be reluctant to talk about the person who passed away. Sometimes, talking about them can allow us to process our emotions and feel closer to them.

As you are navigating the year of firsts and processing your grief, allow yourself to accept support. “Make sure to not only take care of yourself, but let others take care of you, too,” adds Roberts. Especially if these feelings emerge around a holiday, lower your expectations and share responsibilities for traditions or activities that you may have coordinated. For example, if preparing the Christmas meal is usually your job, let someone else tackle it this year. If you don’t feel like taking the kids to see the holiday lights show, call a loved one to take them instead, or propose a new idea. Celebrations are going to look different during the year of firsts, and that’s okay. Grief can be very isolating, so it’s good to ask for extra support.

There is no timeline for grief, but if the intensity of the grief doesn’t improve after a year, this may indicate that it is time to seek help. Whether you attend a grief group, seek counseling, or call 988 in times of crisis, there are many options to help you process your grief, and Centerstone can help. To learn more about Centerstone’s counseling options, visit our counseling services page or call 877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123). To learn more about 988, click here.

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