Coping with the absence of significant people in your life is difficult enough, but when important milestone moments take place, this can be even more challenging and emotionally difficult.
For children and young people, August and September can be huge milestone months, especially for those who are waiting for A-Level and GCSE results, or for those starting school, college or embarking on a new school year and the changes this can bring.
When a significant person is no longer present in their life, it can trigger very difficult feelings associated with grief, which can make it even harder to handle these moments.
Some children and young people may already feel these absences in the lead-up to these significant events, for others, it may not hit them until afterwards. The journey of grief is unique to everyone and it’s important to take care of yourself and find ways to support yourself if these difficult moments arise.
Some of our Child Bereavement Support Workers have shared some tips and ideas on ways to help you cope if you’re struggling to cope when these milestone moments arise, here are their ideas:
“Something we talk about a lot is getting children and young people to write a letter to their special person or keep an ongoing diary or journal, with milestones, achievements and even disappointments. They can also include a photo of what they are writing about i.e. first day at high school, winning a medal at a sports club, that kind of thing.
It’s also important for them to remember that not everything in life is going to work out how they want and it’s okay to acknowledge this in a journal entry too, with maybe how they will reflect and learn from this.”
“Think about how the loved one might choose to celebrate the milestone and maybe blend that into the day of the event.
Share your plans and feelings with those around you – especially at times like Christmas when there may have been traditions before, you may not feel the same about them anymore or may want to start new ones.
It’s ok to make time for yourself on these days and these times. Reach out and don’t be scared or worried to tell people how you are feeling. Tears are not a bad thing!!
Give yourself permission not to observe or celebrate the milestone. Sometimes the thought of the milestone can be pretty overwhelming & often it can become a day that you end up dreading. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to celebrate it and want to treat it as an ordinary day. Our grieving processes are all different.”
“There’s a lovely part in the Julie Stokes book ‘You will be ok’ where she talks about her own experience of being invited to meet the Queen because of the work she has done with bereaved children. She talked about on the day feeling surprised by overwhelming sadness rather than excitement as her own father wasn’t there to be part of it. She refers to digging into her grief toolbox and wearing his favourite aftershave on the day to maintain that connection of her dad being part of the special day as smells can really connect to emotions. Thinking about a smell, item of clothing or holding close to them a photo on these milestone days to help maintain that connection to the person who has died.”
“It can be helpful to use a calendar to note down the dates that may be difficult, such as birthdays, anniversaries, prom, exam results etc. so these occasions don’t take you by surprise. Acknowledge that these days, and sometimes even the days on either side of these dates may be hard. It can be good to think ahead and have some ideas of what you feel may help you.
It may be things like making family, friends, teachers, etc aware that you might find that day hard.
You could explain to others how they can help you on that day i.e. ask you how you are, not mention it, talk to you, give you space, a hug or just a smile.
Maybe it would be helpful to plan a moment during the day to remember your special person, such as lighting a candle, visiting the grave or a place special to them, or listening to their favourite song.
You might like to wear a piece of their clothing, jewellery, or favourite colour on the day to feel connected to them.
Not all milestone occasions are sad, some can also be days of celebration and joy. Either way, remember to be kind to yourself, allow the tears to come if needed and don’t feel bad if you are happy.”