Niesia Garza, LCSW – Navarre Counselor

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Navigating Through Grief Milestones

Dealing with Milestones and Dates of Significance

Grief is a universal experience, yet its intensity can be magnified during significant dates and milestones. The months of March and May are particularly profound for me. March marks the death of my son Daniel, while May celebrates his birthday. As his 17th birthday approached, I felt an extra layer of intense emotion knowing that this school year (2023-2024) would have marked his senior year.

As we celebrated Daniel’s 17th birthday, the realization that he should have been enjoying the milestones of life struck me with a fresh wave of emotion. These special dates do not serve as my only reminder of his absence; his missing presence is a daily reality for me, a constant reminder of the joyful experiences he should have had.

Life after Daniel’s death presented a profound shift, encompassing a range of emotions and adjustments that were both confusing and overwhelming. The concept of a ‘new normal’ was something I resisted, and I am still learning to live with this new reality. There are bearable days and some unbearable days, but time does not heal these wounds. It is a continuous journey, a daily walk with grief.

Tips I Have Used and Continue to Use as I Navigate the Milestones and Anniversaries:

  1. Prepare Mentally: I have learned that acknowledging the coming wave of emotions around milestones and significant dates helps me cope. Give yourself the grace to feel whatever emotions arise.
  2. Create a Personal Ritual and Incorporate Memory: Daniel and I share a birthday month, with our birthdays just two days apart. Every year, we celebrate with a cake and a balloon release on his birthday. This personal tradition gives my family and me a meaningful way to remember and honor Daniel. Whether it is lighting a candle, visiting a special place, or gathering with friends and family, find rituals and ways that resonate with you to incorporate your loved one’s memory into your life.
  3. Allow Flexibility: Each year feels different, and it is essential to allow yourself to experience these dates in your unique way, without judgment.
  4. Honor Your Own Pace: Trust yourself and honor your process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve or handle these significant dates.
  5. Reflect and Write: I often reflect on the growth and changes since Daniel’s death. Writing down feelings or memories can be a therapeutic way to navigate these dates.
  6. Be Kind to Yourself and Communicate Your Needs: Engage in self-care practices that nurture you. Let the people in your life know what you need during these times. If that means not wanting anyone to call but stating it is okay to text, that’s fine. We can’t control how others respond but knowing you have communicated your needs can make a difference. These dates can be emotionally taxing; therefore, treat yourself with kindness.

In the journey of grief, every individual’s experience is unique. At Daniel’s Harbor, we are here to support and guide you through these significant dates and milestones. Remember that you are not alone, and we are here to walk alongside you. The tips shared aim to offer support as you navigate the challenging terrain of milestones and dates of significance.