In my last posting I talked about the one year anniversary.

Other tough days may include your loved one’s birthday; a wedding anniversary; and those difficult holiday times that are fast approaching.

No doubt about it ~ there are going to be changes in how you celebrate.

The best advice I can offer is to have open and honest communication with your family and friends about their expectations, the changes you envision, and how you plan to implement the changes. It is also your decision how, and if, you wish to include your deceased loved one in future events.

Here are some suggestions on how to include your loved one in family celebrations, so you may keep his/her memory alive.
1. Make a scrapbook filled with pictures and mementos of happy times
2. Watch home videos
3. Reminisce about past events
4. Tell childhood stories about your loved one
5. Get together with other family members/friends who feel your loss as deeply as you do
6. Visit the place of burial or scattering of ashes and have a picnic or release a balloon to
“heaven” with a message

Concerning the last item, neither my sons nor I have been back to the cemetery since the day of their father’s funeral. Personally, I don’t like the image that comes to mind of his physical body inside a box buried beneath the ground. I don’t believe he is there anymore, so I don't feel obligated to put myself in the situation of conjuring up that picture. I certainly don’t need to go to a cemetery to remember him. I would have gone though, if my sons wanted to ~ but when I asked if they did, the answer was always no.

In regard to making new traditions, the strongest one we have established is that on the anniversary of their dad’s death, my sons and I go out to dinner. Even though I am remarried and my sons have girlfriends, this is a day just for the three of us. Quite often, there is only a casual reference to their father; however, we all know why we are together. It’s simply a few hours that we take on that day to honor his memory.

Moreover, we know whatever is going on in our lives at that moment, time will be carved out to commemorate the anniversary day by getting together ~ a survivor’s dinner, if you want to categorize it. Other than the first few years, these dinners have not been sad occasions. Often, we reflect back and see how much all of us have accomplished in the time since he has been gone, and I always let my children know how proud I am of them.

The most important fact to keep in mind is that there is no right or wrong way to remember and honor your loved one. The above-mentioned suggestions are just ideas that worked for my family and me. Do what feels good to you and your family. And as you celebrate future events, also remember that it is healthy if your sadness lessens over the passage of time. Try to let go of your guilt that your life is moving forward and that you are finding a renewed enjoyment of life, for you do not want to be defined by or attached to your grief.

Ellen Gerst is a Life Coach specializing in grief and relationships and the author of several books on grief, including "A Practical Guide to Widow/erhood," born out of Ellen's own experiences as a young widow; 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, an easy-to read reference guide filled with suggestions for every day use on moving through the grief journey; and "Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story." "Love After Loss" is a blueprint on how to use her successful method to redesign your life to include a new love connection after the loss of a partner. Connect with Ellen on Facebook at Love After Loss (for daily relationship tips) and on Thin Threads of Grief & Renewal (for inspirational coping with grief thoughts). Click for more information on grief related services and books..
Image by tanakawho/Flickr Creative Commons

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Comment by Nicole Fortune on December 25, 2011 at 3:10pm

I am still grieving the death of my dad.  He passed in 2004, but the holidays make it feel like it was just last month.  This picture is of him when he was a baby.  It puts a smile on my face.  I appreciate where you are.  Keep on writing!  It is a great tool.  Have a good New Year.  I want to get your book Thin Threads of Grief.

Comment by Linda Lyman on March 11, 2010 at 12:19pm
One very important family loss that is often not recognized within a family is the death of a pet. It has been my experience that people quietly grieve the loss of a pet for years if the pet's death or loss is not acknowledged. I have encouraged people who have lost a pet to have a Celebration of Life for that pet by inviting people who knew the pet to come to a celebration event and to share their experiences of the pet. It is also helpful for pet owners to go through the process of writing the life story of that pet, including pictures. Keep pictures of the pet around the house to enjoy. Pet owners who have lost a pet greatly appreciate it when caring friends send cards acknowledging their loss. Pet owners who lost a pet or had to leave a pet behind, not knowing what has happened to the pet, often have a very difficult time of resolving this great loss.

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