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Every year brings days of hype, festivities and celebration. While these days are a great opportunity to come together, they also surface a lot of memories shared with family and friends.
If a loved one has recently passed away, these days can trigger emotions and grief to come flooding back. Simply hearing ads promoting holidays on the radio, walking through the shops or chatting with a neighbour can remind you of your loss.
The death anniversary is often one of the most challenging days, particularly in the early years. But it can be something as simple as the changing of the seasons triggering smells, colours and sights remind you of your loved one. There are also key holidays such as Easter, Anzac Day and Christmas, as well as birthdays, anniversaries and other events to remember.
ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day Australia
Two key dates in Australia that often trigger grief are ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. Australia’s involvement in wars over the years has left scars that heal but never go away.
Held on 25 April, ANZAC Day is one of Australia's most important national occasions. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps with soldiers in the First World War who landed on Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula at around dawn on Sunday 25 April 1915. This day marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War, and has become a time to commemorate the Australians and New Zealanders who have served our country.
Remembrance Day falls on the 11th of November. On the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11thmonth, a minutes' silence is observed and dedicated to all soldiers who died fighting to protect our nation. It was at 11am on ll November 1918 that the guns on the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare.
Both ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day bring back memories for many people in our community, and it’s particularly important to be mindful of our loved ones on these days.
Dealing with these Days
Be prepared for difficult days, anticipate them and prepare for them. It’s important to find the right person who is sensitive to the events triggering your grief, ensuring you have someone to open up to. There is nothing more comforting than being able to share and reminisce with someone, even cry with someone Sometimes words don't need to be said. Maybe a silent hug would be better.
To help you during these difficult days, you may try:
- Start new traditions - Starting new traditions with friends and family can help you through your grief by giving you something positive to focus on and not resurfacing painful memories.
- By accepting - The first year without your loved one can be especially difficult and for years after it still may be just as hard. Remove the pressure on yourself to feel like you have to have a good time by accepting the day will be different and possibly not a fun time of year for you.
- Seek support - Speaking to a professional, an unbiased person who will listen is a great way to deal with your emotions. There are a number of grief support resources available 24/7.
You can also support family members or friends on these days by:
- Socialising can be hard - Social situations for a grieving person can be especially tough on these days. Invite them to get togethers but understand that it may just be too hard for them to attend. Remember that dealing with loss doesn't always get easier, so don't expect them to be fine if this isn't their first year without their loved one.
- Acknowledge their loved one - Write a heartfelt card or make a donation in the loved one's memory. Acknowledging those we have lost, helps to keep them near to us.
- Ask how you can help get them through the holidays - Having open conversations with a family or friend going through the stages of grief can be hard and overwhelming. But it may be just what they need. Ask them what you can do to help them on these days and honour whatever decisions they make.
Our funeral directors have pooled their knowledge to answer some common questions about grief.
Grief support services
There are many services who can support you during this time.
How to help after a death
Here are some ideas to help friends and family experiencing grief.
Grief on special days
Birthdays, Christmas and other special days can magnify your sense of loss and mourning.