June can be a busy month for many people. It can be an exciting time as we celebrate graduations. But it can be filled with mixed emotions for families who have lost a child. Graduation is an important transition, marking accomplishments and milestones, but it may be painful that your child or sibling is not sharing this moment with you. Graduation is not an event that is widely recognized as a trigger of grief in the same way as birthdays and anniversaries are. Even if your family is not celebrating a graduation, it may be difficult to see other families together when someone is missing from your own. It is natural to have thoughts and feelings about your lost loved ones surface as surges of grief. And you may find yourself thinking about what could have been. When this happens, you might feel isolated and self-critical.
Here are some ideas that you might find helpful:
- Anticipate and plan for the difficult time: Grief can cause you to have feelings of intense emotions that may seem unbearable, unfamiliar and out of control. If you have grief reactions like these you may dread these waves and feel powerless to stop them. But you can learn to predict when your intensity of grief will increase, and plan for what to do. Planning can increase your sense of control and minimize the degree to which grief is disruptive and frightening, even if you can’t control its occurrence or intensity.
- Take some time to stop and think about how you might react to graduation: You might make some notes about what bothers you the most or what might be hardest for you. Try to anticipate how you will feel.
- Be sure to practice self-compassion: accepting the reality that you will be sad, reminding yourself it’s OK to be sad, even very sad.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself: Stay in touch with your own feelings and your own needs. If you need some time to be alone, plan for that. If you need support, ask your best supporter to be with you. Be open to help from others.
- Remember grief is a form of love. Don’t criticize yourself for being emotional.