Coping With Grief At Milestones

By Virginia

Grief changes things. This may sound simplistic, but when a loved one dies, our lives are never the same. Our lives continue—days come and go—but how do we celebrate milestones and grieve at the same time?

Recently, I spoke with a mother who attends a grief support group. Her story (shared with her permission) is one of double tragedy; she lost two of her three adult daughters in separate accidents within a few months. She shared it is not necessarily the “holiday” grief that is so hard to cope with, because holiday grief is more expected. The weddings of her daughters’ friends and births of their babies, or family reunions are most difficult.

“My oldest daughter never got to experience the birth of a child, and my younger daughter never had the chance to marry. It is like they were cheated out of these things because of their deaths,” she says. She says she is now able to go to receptions, but they usually arrive late, and leave early. This mother does not attend baby showers, but may send a gift directly to the new mother. “I’m not bitter, I just need to care for myself during these times,” she shares.

Perhaps these reminders may help us cope with the “milestones” in our life:

M – Memories. It is helpful to keep the memories of our loved ones alive by sharing things that mean the most to us.
I – Imagine. Try to imagine how our loved ones would want to celebrate the milestone, and incorporate it into the celebration.
L – Love. Love others and love yourself. Give yourself the time and patience you give to others.
E – Express your emotions. Let yourself laugh and cry. Sometimes we just need to let others know how we feel.
S – Search and savor. Search out your blessings and savor the simple. Take Irving Berlin’s advice and “fall asleep counting your blessings.”
T – Take charge. Make decisions that strengthen you. We build our confidence by taking charge of those things we have control over.
O – Open yourself up. Sharing our grief with someone helps, and it may give them permission to express their grief too.
N – Note your progress. Keep a journal or a diary. This helps us see our blessings and areas we need to work on.
E – Eat and exercise. The physical affects the emotional, so if you care for your physical self, your emotional self follows.

My father was a man who spoke highly of education and impressed upon us the importance of doing our best. Following his death, I found myself back in college pursuing a degree. As graduation approached, I shared with my husband that I wished I could honor my dad in some way. He recommended I have my maiden name and married name printed on my diploma. As I received that simple piece of paper on graduation day, I could almost hear my father say, “Well done.” It is a moment I will never forget; another milestone marking a memorable spot in my journey through grief.

For more information about our grief services, call (800) 237-4629 and ask for the bereavement department or visit our website.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email or visit