My kids and I love to celebrate holidays. Sure, we like all of the traditional ones like Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, holidays like National Cheese Day, World Kindness Day, and International Friendship Day are up our alley too. Heck, just this month we celebrated Black Cow Root Beer Float Day. This week we have celebrated Be Kind to Humankind week which has been fun. However, I can honestly say that I never thought I would be celebrating National Grief Awareness Day, but I very much am.
Death is a natural part of life. You might think that people would be comfortable with both death and grief because they happen so often. Definitely not the case. Grief makes so many people uncomfortable which is the very reason we need to “celebrate” this holiday.
So, how can we celebrate this unique holiday? Well, for starters, we can all make an effort to better understand emotions…our own and others. We can work to not shy away from the uncomfortableness of raw emotions like grief and sadness. Working to do this might make us more comfortable with grief. It might help us be more accepting of others as they go through the grief process.
Are you thinking that you are fine with emotions but you just never know what to say to someone who is grieving? That’s okay. We need to accept that we don’t always have the right words, and we can be honest about that fact. It is perfectly okay to say, “I just don’t know what to say.” It’s fine to sit silently with a loved one that is grieving, but resist the urge to just shy away from them because you don’t know what to say.
Another way to celebrate this day is to accept that everyone grieves differently. Grief is like a snowflake. Seriously! I don’t think I have ever found two people that grieve exactly the same way. They may even be grieving the same person, but they still grieve differently. Some people show a lot of outward emotion when grieving. Others put on a brave face and internalize more. Some go to the cemetery often, and others won’t go at all. Many will talk freely about their feelings, and others won’t talk unless asked. I could go on and on here. The point is that grief is very individual, and we need to accept that others won’t grieve the same as us. That is okay.
Having said that, I should say that there might be a few times when a person’s grief process isn’t the best…or even okay really. Sometimes going through grief leads people to destructive and risky behaviors. Using drugs or overusing alcohol would be two examples of this. Also, people sometimes get stuck in their grief. When this happens, they aren’t able to move forward at all even after a lengthy period of time If you see things like this happening, feel free to speak up in love. If these things aren’t happening, then try to just love the person while they are sorting through their grief their way.
If you know someone who has lost a loved one, don’t be afraid to mention their loved one. You hear people say things like, “Well, I didn’t want to bring him/her up because I didn’t want to make them more sad.” You can’t. Share any memories you might have and ask them to share theirs. Be kind and tell them if they don’t want to talk that is okay, but don’t just steer clear of mentioning their loved one. I bet 9 times out of 10 the person will want to talk about their loved one. Especially if the grief isn’t extremely recent.
National Grief Awareness Day absolutely deserves to be celebrated. It should be used as a day to open our eyes to how we view grief and how we can help those that are grieving. Let’s work to make grief less uncomfortable for everyone. Reach out to a friend or family member that has lost someone. Talk with them, spend time with them, and help them to feel loved and remembered as they go through this difficult journey.