Life doesn’t stop with the death of a loved one. The seasons pass and holidays come and go. Life cycle events and milestones continue to happen: children are born, graduate, go to college, marry, have children, and continue to grow. Grandchildren are born… Life goes on.
So, how do we handle those sweet and happy moments, knowing quite well that someone is missing?
Some families have rituals. I know our family did. When my father died, he left four children, ages eleven to twenty. He missed it all; proms, college scouting trips, graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. I remember my mother on significant days, leaning close and telling me, “Your dad would be so proud.” In doing so, she somehow made him a part of the day, despite how many years had passed.
A good friend handled his loss differently. His wife died when his children were thirteen and seventeen. As significant events approached, he’d ask, “What do we do?” And the three of them would decide how they’d handle the occasion. He also made sure to tell his children at appropriate times, “Mom would have loved this.” At other times he’d say, “Too bad we couldn’t have had mom here. It’s a shame she didn’t experience this,” or “How incredible it would have been to have been together.”
Grief is very personal and each individual and family handles grief and loss in their own way. For some families, life without their deceased loved one means choosing not to bring their name and remembrance into special family milestone moments. That’s what happened to my cousins. Their mother found it too painful to mention their dad at special events or in connection with personal achievements. And yet my cousins themselves chose to keep their dad’s memory alive through stories and memories. This made their mom happy and she did make a point to share over the years how pleased she was that her children had such happy recollections of their dad and their shared laughter and stories made them all feel good.
Families are as unique as their members and while there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is also no standard way to remember a loved one. Whether we choose to keep a deceased loved one’s memory alive in a public way, or grieve privately and move on, is a very personal choice.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, available in ebooks for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.