Dealing with Grief During Transitional Seasons

5 months before my dad died, we danced at my wedding.

Today is my dad’s birthday. Or more accurately, today was my dad’s birthday. Growing up, one of the biggest reasons I loved this day was because it meant my birthday was only three days away. Yes, I’m aware how terribly selfish that sounds, but I’m just being honest. But today isn’t easy, not just because he’s gone. Today is the first birthday of my dad’s where we have a family of four. Our son Marshall was born in April of this year, and my dad will never meet him. That makes me nauseous just typing out the words. He passed away unexpectedly in November 2016, just 2.5 weeks after turning 51. While he met and loved our daughter for the months he knew her, he didn’t know that he would eventually have a grandson too.

Transitional Seasons: When Grief Ebbs and Flows

Grief doesn’t simply fade with time. Grief comes in stages and the big moments seem to be clouded. Losing someone in a transitional time of life is hard. You have all of these new memories and experiences that only remind you what the person is missing. Despite knowing my dad is in a much better place, it doesn’t completely erase my own sadness.  I was filled with anxiety and grief before giving birth to our son because it didn’t feel right that he would never meet his grandpa. I want little to do with my own birthday, because it’s only a sharp memory that I no longer share the week with my dad. The birthday banner always hung in our house for a few weeks to celebrate both of us. Anniversaries, holidays, birthdays…. everything becomes clouded. The whole months of October and November are horrible for me. October is the month of our birthdays, and November is when he was hospitalized, died, and missed his granddaughter’s 1st birthday. Her 1st birthday was the most painful day for me. If you have your own children near the time of the loss of a loved one, even their adorable smiles become a painful reminder that someone is missing. Those same chubby smiles can also help you through it, which brings me to the next point.


Do What Helps You to Grieve

The answer of “what helps you” deal with grief during transitional seasons will be different for each person. Some people like sharing memories out loud, but that’s not for me. For me it’s always been writing, talking to my husband, or looking at pictures privately. If you are grieving, do not feel bad about doing the things that help you (unless they are dangerous to your or someone else’s health, then please don’t do those things). If you need time away, take it. If you can’t focus, take the day off work. Call in sick if that’s what you need. Last year I made the mistake of working on my dad’s birthday. It was the first birthday after his death, and my job was a high stress toxic work environment (which I have since left to be a freelance personal finance & travel rewards writer). That combination meant I was sobbing in my office with the door closed before 7:45am. I tried to bury myself in work, and bury myself I did, but it didn’t help with grieving, it only put it aside. Go for a walk, a run, a drive, or wherever. Buy something small as a reminder. Bake a cake. Eat that person’s favorite food. Call another person who’s grieving if that helps, or don’t if it doesn’t. Writing this post if how I choose to grieve, and I don’t apologize for that. Also, I’m drinking a lot of coffee today because he was the biggest coffee drinker I know 🙂 Here are a few examples of specific things to help with grief during transitional seasons:

  • Look through photos with the ones who may not know the loved one
  • Eat or drink that person’s favorite food/drink
  • Do an activity you shared with the lost person (alone or with others)
  • Create a memory box, craft, or photo collage
  • Read the person’s favorite book

My Dad Left a Legacy

Because this site is about personal finance, it’s important for me to again say how important life insurance is. When my dad passed away, my mom (and thus my own family) did not have to worry about finances. My mom was financially stable. That legacy was since extended. It helped us become debt free years earlier than we expected, and has since set up college accounts for our own children that Travis and I will continue to add to through the years. If you have any dependents, or any large sum of student loans, you need to have life insurance in place to protect those around you. There are different plans available, and you can get quotes in minutes. I cannot tell you the peace of mind we have knowing our own children would be okay if we died. Life insurance made the death of my father slightly easier to bear, because we knew that my mom would be okay.

 

His legacy was also through organ & tissue donation. Although it was full of mixed emotions, I’m so proud to say that he was a donor. You can read more about my experience as the daughter of an organ donor, including the things that weren’t good, here. 

I hope this was helpful if you’ve lost someone close, and if you are grieving, I’m so sorry for your loss. Email me anytime if you want someone to share with (rachel@budgetsandkale.com)

-Rachel

Hi, my name is Rachel Smith. I’m a personal finance nerd,  Aldi connoissuer, book lover, yoga enthusiast, and budgeting wiz. I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska but currently call Michigan home. I want to help people with their finances and eating healthy on a tight budget (no matter what your cost-of-living area is!)



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