Tips for Your First Year in Grief

black calendar close up composition The first year of grief can be extremely difficult for the mourner because there are so many "firsts" without the loved one present.  Each special day can become a painful reminder of the loss.  Here are some practical tips for the mourner trying to navigate through that first year of birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and family gatherings without a loved one physically present.

  • You are not alone, and you should not try to do your grief on your own and by yourself.  You can ask for help & support without feeling guilty.
  • Neither love for the missing person nor grief take a vacation or the day off. Don’t try to put your grief on hold even for special observances.  Your need to grieve in healthy ways continues.
  • Talk about your grief. Be with those who will listen, support & not judge you. You have an ongoing need to remember your loved one in meaningful and healing ways.
  • Be patient with yourself. Realize your limitations.  Don't overdo.
  • Eliminate unnecessary stress.  Grief is stressful enough without adding new stresses or obligations for yourself.
  • Do what is right for you during the special day(s).  Explain to others what your plans are for the special observances & holidays.
  • Plan ahead for the day.  And if the plan doesn't appear to be working, go directly into Plan B.
  • Embrace the memories of your loved one.
  • Remember the dread of the special day is usually worse than experiencing the day itself.
  • Honor your loved one in a meaningful way.
  • Communicate with others.  Don't suffer in silence.  Occasional time in solitude can be helpful, but withdrawing from others in your grief only adds to your stress and pain.
  • Ask for help if you need it. If you don't ask for what you need, you will probably not get it.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or

The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on

Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX