Foundations Of Grief

14 Episodes

Episode 10 : Heavy Grief Days


Episode Notes Heavy Grief Days Worksheet

Heavy Grief Days

Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop, and know that it’s completely normal. ANTICIPATING and PLANNING are the keys to handling these special days and occasions that make your loved one’s absence felt more deeply. They can be opportunities for grieving, healing and honoring them.

When you have lost a loved one, certain days are more significant than others, as they remind us more specifically of the person who died. These days can be especially difficult – anniversaries, birthdays, the anniversary of their death, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. You will be able to identify many occasions on which your loved one’s absence will be felt more deeply.

So how do you cope with TUG Days?

The first thing you need to know about these days is that you are not moving backward in your grief when they hit. If you can learn to allow yourself to feel the loss and plan how to deal with the day, it is actually an opportunity to remember your loved one’s death and also their life and a chance for you to get some control back. 

Grief invites us to remember, not to forget. To try to ignore the occasion, or pretend that it is just like any other day is unnatural, and actually increases the tension. It takes more energy to avoid the situation than it does to confront it.

How to approach these days:

  1. Plan in advance.
  2. Observe these days in ways that are comfortable and meaningful for you.
  3. Plan a departure from your usual activities.
  4. Pick who you want to be with.
  5. Don’t wait for people to remember.
  6. Give yourself permission to cry.
  7. Give yourself permission to feel good.
  8. Feel and express your feelings.
  9. Find ways to remember and honor your loved one
  10. Don’t be afraid to have fun.
  11. Your loved one died, but they also lived. Find a way to celebrate their life.

Don’t judge how you choose to deal with these days. It’s all about what works for you.

The first major holiday for me after my husband died was Thanksgiving and I knew that was going to be an especially tough day for me. So here is what I chose to do. I live in Southern California so the weather was still very nice in November. Just after sunrise, I took the chest of his ashes and put them in the front seat of my car. I then went to Starbucks to get my favorite holiday drink – a peppermint mocha. I drove to Long Beach to a place that we went to often. I put a blanket on the sand, put the chest of ashes next to me, and played some of our favorite songs on my phone speaker. I cried and cried and cried! I talked to Mark. I sang our favorite songs out loud. I probably looked like a nut to anyone who was walking by but I didn’t care. I was in my own world. It was painful and good at the same time – and it was part of grieving and part of healing. I did this 3 years in a row.

What would be meaningful for you?

These special days can be, what a client of mine called, “brutiful” – they are brutal because you feel the pain of the loss of your loved one more deeply, but beautiful as you remember fond memories and love. I think “brutiful” is really an appropriate word and that would certainly describe the experience I had on Thanksgiving as I sat on the beach remembering my husband.

We have a worksheet included in this episode under downloads to help plan for these days.

REMEMBER: These special days are tough but they do get easier as time goes on and we take actions to heal our hearts. Remembering those we love on these days and feeling the emotions is actually part of the healing process. And planning for them gives you a sense of control at a time when things can feel very out of control. This is a wonderful exercise to include children in.


  1. Download the sheet or make your own list of days you know are going to be especially tough.
  2. Either by yourself or as a family, decide how you want to acknowledge those days.


These heavy grief days are hard, but with planning, there can be moments of remembrance and healing.  Don’t let them just happen to you.