Memorial Moments—turning tough days into celebrations

There are no words for what you’re going through. This sucks. We get it and we’re so sorry you’re a part of the club no one wants to join. Whether you’re new to the club or a long-time member, one thing’s for sure: life will never be the same.

Sometimes, the sadness from your someone’s absence can feel more present than the joy on what should be a happy occasion. From the father-daughter dance at your wedding to the birth of your child, achieving life’s milestones after loss can feel bittersweet.

It is not uncommon to experience a wave of grief on or around anniversaries and special dates from someone’s life or your own life. You may feel like crying on the couch to a sad song with a large order of pad thai. Or maybe you feel like watching an episode of “The Office” you’ve seen six hundred times already and laughing for just one second. We all cope differently.

If life is running along, business as usual, you might not even see it coming. Even days clearly marked on the calendar can sneak up on your heart. It’s important to create joy on these days to balance out the deep emotional weight they hold. We call these Memorial Moments—acts of remembering can fill that space without ignoring what’s really going on.

Memorial Moments can look like anything. Even better, they should look and feel like your someone. They can be big or small, simple or spectacular, a huge party or just you. Turning those tough days into commemorative celebrations can be a fulfilling and healing practice in your life going forward. It might be their birthday, your wedding anniversary, Mother’s Day, or the anniversary of the day they died, but the fact is: Some days are heavier than others.

Here are some Memorial Moments to help you get inspired…

Jess lost her brother nine years ago. How does she celebrate Memorial Moments? Every year on his birthday, she gets a slurpee (with as many flavors as possible) at 7-11 because it was his favorite. Jess and her family host a golf tournament around the anniversary of his passing and a hockey tournament on his birthday to raise money for a fund created in his honor.

After losing their father, Zack and his siblings created a Memorial Moment as a family. When they were kids, one of their first memories with their dad was going to a dim sum restaurant, a tradition they continued weekly throughout his life. Every year on his birthday, they gather together to eat dim sum again in his honor. At Zack’s wedding, he hung his dad’s Tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, in the middle of the chuppah. Zack also wore pieces of his dad’s jewelry and kept his dad’s pictures in his suit jacket to keep his father close to him on such a monumental day.

The day my dad died fourteen years ago, my family and I went out for ice cream. An ice cream run was always my dad’s go-to solution and weirdly the only thing we could think to do in the moment. Flash forward five years and it was the first time I spent the anniversary of my dad’s death away from my family. My college roommate took it upon herself to fill my difficult day with Memorial Moments. We got phở, my favorite comfort food, and went out for a banana split, my dad’s favorite. We continued those grounding new traditions for five years and even though we no longer live in the same place, I still make it a point to celebrate those Memorial Moments without fail.

Embedding these small acts of remembering into your life offsets the sadness with as much joy and gratitude as possible. If you feel like company, ask a friend or family member to join you. Maybe every year on your someone’s birthday, you pack a picnic of their favorite foods (a tuna sandwich and Cheetos, for some reason) and hike up to their regular spot. Maybe on Mother’s Day, you gather with your family and take a moment to raise a glass to your mom and toast the beautiful life she gave you. Maybe on the anniversary of the day your someone died, you get a ridiculously huge banana split with your best friend.

Do those things year after year. Build these new traditions to keep your someone present in your life, even when they’re no longer with you. As you create your Memorial Moments, you will start to find comfort. Comfort in keeping your special days with your someone special.

Written by Tiffany Tatreau
Published on December 8, 2020

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