Redefining How We Celebrate Special Days
When the worldwide pandemic happened in 2020, we began to see how people pivoted in order to still celebrate holidays, birthdays, and special occasions within the crushing constraints of mandatory lockdowns and mask-wearing. While much has changed in the years since, including vaccinations, boosters, and the elimination of mask requirements, the pandemic forever changed our view on the importance of being a part of a community, especially when you are also feeling the heaviness of someone’s absence.
You may be facing your first Mother’s Day without your mother this year, or your first Christmas, or your first any special day without that special person in your life. One of my favorite activities to suggest for especially hard days is to make a grief box. You can do this activity on your own or you can make it a family activity now that we can gather again in person. For those that still might be leery of group gatherings or for those who are not in the same lcoation, you can make this a Facetime or Zoom activity that everyone can be a part of together.
How to Make a Grief Box
Find a box or container. The box or container can be a regular shoebox or it can be a special box that already has its own significance related to your loved one. In the box, add mementos, pictures, stories, jokes, postcards, and any other reminders, symbols, or special memories of your loved one.
Notice how you feel as you add mementos and share with family members some of the stories. If you enjoy feeling connected to your bond with your loved one and to those around you, feel free to continue sharing and adding. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or too heavy from the emotions, it’s time to close the box and return to your memory box another time.
Take a deep breath as you close the box allowing compassion and calmness to sweep over you knowing that you took time to care for your grieving parts even though it was painful. Notice that it feels good to be able to close the box and it also feels good to know that you will reopen it again. You can reopen the box whenever you feel ready, whenever you need, and whenever it feels comfortable. And, it is just as powerful to know that you can close the box whenever it becomes too sad or too overwhelming.
I often recommend the book Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen which is a fantastic story highlighting how everyone grieves differently and how those different grieving styles, phases, and stages can come together beautifully with those around you. Although this book is written in a way that children can connect with, it is very powerful for all ages and anyone who is experiencing loss. Reading this book together as a family on a difficult holiday could be a bonding and connecting experience which might help honor and remember your loved one together.
by Brad Unruh (with Carrie Phelps), Sunset Contributors
About the Author: Brad Unruh is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has his own private practice focusing specifically on couples counseling and coming alongside those who are grieving. To find out more about Brad, the services he provides, and events he is having, follow his practice on Facebook, go to his Psychology Today profile, or reach out to him at email@example.com.