By Donna Bowyer
CMHA Sask. Division
Special occasions, such as holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries can be difficult for many individuals, including those who have been impacted by suicide. Here are some tips for those who are having difficulty with these days.
Consider Whether Usual Traditions May Be Comforting or Challenging
Some people find comfort in keeping their usual traditions but adapting them in some way, while others cannot imagine carrying on with their usual traditions. There is no right or wrong here — just what works for you. It is okay to take a year off from your usual traditions and decide next year if you will resume them.
Keep Traditions, or Start New Ones
If holding to longstanding traditions proves too painful, consider developing new family traditions. For example, if you used to cook holiday meals, make dinner into a potluck instead.
Anticipating the Event Can Be Harder than the Event Itself
Know that worrying about the event in the time leading up to the event is often more difficult than the event itself. Feeling anxious about a coming event does not mean the event itself will be difficult. It may be helpful to let supportive people in your life know that you are concerned about how the day will be, so they can help you figure out what may be most helpful to you.
Communicate Your Needs In Advance
Friends and family often want to be helpful but may need to be told what they need to do to be supportive. If you find it comfortable to talk about your loved one, or would rather grieve in a private way, talk openly with them in advance so that everyone knows what to expect. Ask them to check in with you throughout the day, if needed, and to take care of tasks that will help to reduce your stress levels.
Take a Break If Needed
If the event proves to be too much, talk a short walk. Make sure you have a way to leave early if you need to. Sometimes having an exit strategy can make you feel more at ease, whether you need to use it or not. If you do, communicate it to someone supportive so they know that you are
okay and just in need of a break. If you are not feeling okay, it may be better to find someone to talk with privately to decide whether leaving the event would be most helpful. You may also identify someone you can call from the event if you need to, and let them know in advance you may call them if you are having a hard time.
If you have friends or family living in a different city, consider visiting them – a change in scenery might be helpful. Some people find planning a trip or travel gives them something else to focus on than the date itself.
Volunteering is a Great Way to Heal
Look online for volunteering opportunities in your area. Many people find meaning in helping others, and it’s a great way to honor your loved one or to acknowledge an important date.