By Jennifer Lane, www.JenniferLLane.com
Celebrating after suicide is difficult as we are reminded of our devastating loss. We get caught up telling the story of their death, limiting the time we spend talking about and celebrating the life they lived. Anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays become difficult as we are reminded that our loved one will not be present. On my own journey, I have found it easier to celebrate on these days. It reminds me of the life my father lived, and the person he was. It reminds me of the happy memories that occurred prior to the devastation that followed his death. We welcome author, podcast creator, and fellow survivor Jennifer L. Lane. She shares what she does to honor her brother on those “big days.”
Introduction by Jessica Hutchison of www. OurSideofSuicide.com.
My brother’s birthday is smack in the middle of Thanksgiving and Christmas. This makes the holidays extra tricky. I lost my little brother to suicide in 2010, and I’ve found holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries one of the hardest times of year to navigate emotionally. These “big days” can be draining, and they can bring back those feelings of anger or guilt that you thought you had dealt with.
There are two things that have been helpful for me. One is to honor my lost, loved-one in a personal way, and number two is to let go of the “big day” dread.
There are lots of ideas online for ways you can honor your loved one on a “big day.” Letting go of balloons are a popular choice. You can also give a donation to a charity in your loved one’s honor.
My suggestion is to pick something that reminds you of a good memory you had with your loved one. I also suggest that you pick something that is active, that gives you something to do.
My yearly action that honors my brother is making cupcakes. One of my favorite memories with my brother was watching comedy with him. We loved to retell jokes from funny movies and skit shows like Saturday Night Live. We both loved the digital short from SNL called LazySunday. It’s a rap song about going to the movies to watch the Chronicles of Narnia. In it, Adam Samberg raps about eating cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. When my brother Jeffrey turned 19 and was living with me for a few months, it seemed appropriate for me to make cupcakes from the recipe that Magnolia Bakery uses. Those cupcakes were good. The lyric “I told you that I’m crazy for those cupcakes cousin,” honestly made sense.
We lost my brother to suicide in the summer of 2010. When his birthday came in December of that year, I decided to make those cupcakes. It has become a tradition. I’ve honored his memory by making those cupcakes every year since. Sometimes it has lined up where I can make extra cupcakes and take them to church to give away to kids in my Sunday school class, or my Bible club class. I’ve loved it when that works out. I feel like I’ve honored him well when I can share a little joy with others, even if it’s just a little thing like a homemade buttery cupcake.
This year my brother’s birthday falls on a Friday. I have decided I’m going to take some of the cupcakes to the downtown area where homeless people congregate. I want to tell them about my brother, about his drug use, and encourage them to seek help, or maybe just call their big sisters.
Secondly, please don’t let yourself play the dread game. When a “big day” is approaching, I have a tendency to think “this day is going to stink,” over and over again, and the dread builds and boils over. Once the actual “big day” arrives, that day isn’t actually as bad as I had built it up in my head.
Try not to let yourself play that game. When you start having dread about a holiday, birthday, or anniversary approaching, remind yourself that it isn’t going to be that bad. You can end up ruining weeks leading up to a “big day” over dread. Your life is precious. Those days are precious. I encourage you not to waste them on dread. Do some dread-blocking.
Holidays are tough, so give yourself grace and do the best you can. Hopefully by not giving into dread, and honoring your loved one with an active and personal tradition, you can get through it and find some needed peace.
This piece was originally written for The Gift of Second, another beautiful and helpful site for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.