Those words often conjure up pictures of picnics, campouts, gatherings with friends, and lots of food and fun. Other pictures comes to mind, however: a woman, weeping as she kneels with a handful of flowers at the fresh grave of her husband; a man at the cemetery, standing by the marker bearing his wife’s name and wondering how he can go on. To these people, Memorial Day has a very different meaning.
This Memorial Day, are you (or is someone you know) grieving the loss of a loved one who is no longer with you? Are you still at the stage of grief where your emotions are unpredictable, you live with a perpetual ache in your heart, and you never know when the tears will suddenly surface again?
Memorial Day can be a hard day for those who’ve experienced loss. But there are things you can do to help make it through this weekend – and that will help you move on with life. Here are five tips to begin with:
First, grieve. Grieving is painful, unpredictable, and it can be a long process. No wonder people want to avoid it. However, grieving is part of the healing process, and if we refuse to work through our grief, we will never heal completely.
Allow yourself to grieve. Find a place where you can let the tears flow and the racking sobs descend – often. You will find that as you do, there is a cleansing and a renewal that takes their place.
Author Deanna Edwards tells of a young child who said about grief, “Tears are what God gave us to let the hurt out.” Admit that the void in your life hurts, and that it’s okay to hurt. As a wise man once said, there would be something wrong if we didn’t hurt when a loved one dies. Take the time to grieve, and eventually, if you embrace the grieving process, it will bring renewal and peace.
Second, reach out and find a friend. Find someone you can talk to, who understands what you’re going through, and talk. Share your sorrows; share what helps you each get through hard times, and you’ll both come away stronger. Sometimes the very best gift we can be given when we are mourning is a listening ear, and understanding without judgment.
Third, write! Take out a pen and paper, find a quiet spot where you can be uninterrupted, and begin writing. Record the good things that came from your relationship with that loved one. Write what you appreciated about them. Write about some of your favorite memories with them. One day these memories will not be so fresh, and you will be grateful that you took the time now to create something you can look back on and find joy in remembering.
Fourth, move! When we are grieving, often the most appealing activity is no activity at all. It is so tempting to crawl into bed, pull the covers over one’s head, and retreat. But grieving is not just emotional work. It involves the whole body, and exercise helps move the process along more quickly. Walk, run, garden, get out the yoga DVD and follow along – just do something to move your body and get the endorphins flowing. Movement will help banish the blues and help you to look at life from a much more positive perspective.
Finally, serve someone in memory of your loved one. Even if it is a very small thing, find something you can do for someone else to lift their burden. The old adage “It is better to give than to receive” is true – and how better to honor the memory of the one you loved than to do a kind deed in their memory.Einstein said,“The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and learned how to give.” Many people have found that looking outside their own troubles, if only for a few minutes, and finding a way to give to someone else, truly has brought them comfort and happiness.
Make this Memorial Day memorable, by grieving when you need to; finding a friend to confide in; writing about your loved one; moving; and serving. As you do, you will find you make cherished memories yourself, and you will be further along on the path to healing, wholeness, and peace.
Roslyn Reynolds lives in Bountiful and is the author of SOLO – Getting It All Together When You Find Yourself Alone, written after the drowning death of her husband. You can reach her firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website www.roslynreynolds.com