Celebration and Grief
I had never seen so many American flags in one place before. Stars and stripes covered napkins, dishware, stuffed animals, streamers, and more. As I entered my wife’s family home, I didn’t know that this kind of decorating was standard on the fourth of July for my mother-in-law. As a retired Navy Nurse and wife of a retired Airforce colonel, she knew the cost of freedom. So, she always threw a big celebration on the 4th! As a Canadian, I had never celebrated the 4th before, but after a few years of my mother-in-law’s parties, I soon realized I had been missing out!
With all the food, friends, and fireworks, July 4th feels like a shot of adrenaline in the middle of the Summer heat. Yet, this year, we are adding the fourth of July to the long list of celebrations that will not be the same. With each celebration passing us by–be it birthdays, graduations, or holidays–it’s like a wave of grief crashes over us. We miss what was and long for what isn’t. Although these feelings of grief and loss are uncomfortable, they are normal and we should expect them.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, “How am I preparing for the disappointment? How am I caring for myself in the midst of the grief?”
The first step in any kind of grief work is acknowledging the loss. Don’t try to ignore it, rather let it remind you of good memories. What is your earliest memory of a fourth of July celebration? What are some of the traditions you’ve held on to throughout the years? Where is your favorite place to celebrate the 4th? Let those happy memories fill your heart and take time to share them with a friend.
Lately, my daughter has been asking me to tell her my own childhood stories. It’s been a fun practice of remembering happy moments from my childhood and inviting her to be part of them. Invite friends and family into the happy moments of your past.
Secondly, when you expect a day to remind you of what you don’t have or can’t do, be intentional by being kind to yourself. Whether it’s picking out a fun movie or scheduling a few phone calls with grandkids. Be creative in how you can allow this 4th of July to be memorable for something other than it’s lack of fireworks.
Finally, remember, it’s okay to not be okay. The loss and grief that has come as a result of this pandemic is affecting us all. We are all striving to do our best, but some days are harder than others.
So, on this celebration of Independence Day, may you experience a renewed sense of inner-freedom as you acknowledge grief and loss, allow that grief to lead you to happy memories, and trust that this grief will not last forever. There will be a day when we are free from this pandemic.
Peace be upon you,
Chaplain Travis Jamieson