"The Firsts"

It's coming up to the twelfth anniversary of my mum's death. That's twelve birthdays not shared with her, twelve Christmases she's not been there to insist that we eat Christmas dinner at 1 o'clock on the dot. Twelve Mother's days we've not been able to treat her to afternoon tea and twelve years that she's not bought us the first bunch of daffodils that she's seen in the shops.

Does it get easier? Is the twelfth anniversary easier to deal with than the first? I think if I'm honest, then yes it does, because I now have coping mechanisms in place. I've also learned to recognise when I'm, starting to feel overwhelmed. Those are the years, I give myself a break, I just decide to do what I can cope with. I might decide to take the day off work, go for a walk with the dogs, stay off social media. Whatever I feel I need too.

Then there are those years, where I want to celebrate my mum and me and my sister will plan to do something that she would have enjoyed. It might be we arrange a spa day, have her favourite meal, a bottle of her favourite wine or go shopping.

But with "the firsts", you don't know what to expect, or how you'll feel and whilst I am by no means the expert, I thought if I could share some of my own experiences, then it might help.

The first anniversaries are going to be tough, the things you normally did with your loved one won't happen in the same way.

Me and my sister took the decision that on our mum and dads birthdays and the anniversaries of their deaths we would do something that celebrated them. It would just be the two of us and we would try and organise something fun, we also spend the day sharing memories and we sometimes light a candle.

Christmas was a big deal for our family, so the first Christmas without mum, we decided to go on holiday, somewhere far away and un-christmasy. We did this for a few years and I think it was the best thing for us, we created new traditions, lots of very happy memories and it helped ease the pain. When we were ready, we started spending Christmas at home again.

After dad died, Lucy and I decided we didn't want to go away, but we wanted to try and create a fusion of our old family traditions with new ones. There was a moment on that first Christmas, when everyone had gone home on Christmas Eve and it was just the two of us (and the dogs) that we both had a cry, but we have developed new traditions over the years.

Here's my top tips to dealing with "the firsts"

  1. Accept it will be tough and that it's OK for you to feel sad.

  2. Try and plan something for the day, either with other family members or friends.

  3. Don't let people force you into anything you don't want to do. People mean well, but sometimes it can feel overwhelming.

  4. You can visit your loved ones resting place, maybe take some flowers.

  5. Light a candle.

  6. Share happy memories with family and friends.

  7. Cook their favourite meal.

Whatever it is you do, make sure that everything is on your terms, feel what you need to and make sure you prioritise your needs.

I am not an expert on grief, so if you're feeling overwhelmed by feelings of grief, then please don't suffer alone, there are many places that can offer you help and advice, your local GP, The Good Grief Trust, Cruse Bereavement Care, or Widowed and Young.

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