How to Grieve the Anniversary of a Major Tragedy

If you are dealing with the long-term emotional wreckage left behind by a major tragedy, this blog is here to help you get through it a little easier.  

Tragedies occur as one time events, but the impact on the lives of those they affect can continue on indefinitely. The news coverage and external attention placed on these events is short lived, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still important and they don’t continue to affect you. Anniversaries can be especially difficult because they mark the passage of time since the event occurred and bring its impacts to the forefront again. I wrote this piece to help you better deal with the onslaught of feelings anniversaries bring. You can use this article yourself or share it with those around you who could use support in the grieving process. 

4 Steps to Grieving A Major Tragedy

Acknowledge Your Experience

What you went through is a BIG deal. Your pain, your experience, and your loss deserve attention, recognition and healing. Your experience was very real and can have long-term implications. Your grief is important. Your healing matters. There is no time limit on grief and there is no period by which you need to be “over it.” Give yourself permission to feel – and acknowledge what you feel.

Take a moment now to acknowledge for yourself the bigness of what you went through, what you survived, and what you lost.

Talk about it

The next step in the healing process is to talk about what happened, and the impacts. Talking about it isn’t limited to the events themselves but can include all of the things that were lost as a result. It is important to talk about the people, things, hopes, dreams and experiences that are gone or that never will be. These are all critical aspects of the loss and deserve space to be acknowledged. Talk about it as much and as frequently as you need to– even if you tell the same story 100 times. There is no word limit on a loss like this. Talking about it keeps the memory of what was lost alive. 

Practice Emotional First Aid 

Emotional First Aid techniques can help you feel more calm when feelings become overwhelming. The purpose of these techniques isn’t to make the grief or other feelings go away, but to help make them manageable. When feelings become too strong for our bodies to process them, we can become overwhelmed, panicky, anxious or numb. This makes the healing process more difficult. Emotional First Aid tools are easily accessible healing strategies you can use to support yourself through difficult feelings.

Start practicing Emotional First Aid now by following along with the videos below.

Create a Healing Ritual

If you’d like, you can also create a healing ritual to honor the event and the surrounding losses each year. This ritual serves as an acknowledgement of what you went through, what was, and what never will be. Your ritual is unique to you and can contain any type of practice that works for you. You can do it by yourself or with friends, family, or groups. It can be small or big. It can be religious or nonreligious. What matters is that you create a ritual that is authentic to you and honors your unique loss.

What you’ve lost can’t ever be replaced. But you can make this anniversary one of honoring and healing by using the steps above.

Need Help From a Professional?

Recovering from trauma and loss is difficult. It’s normal to need assistance with this. You don’t have to go through this alone. Check-out the ACEP practitioner directory to find a practitioner who is an ACEP member in your area or online.

Author: Kirsten May Keach, MA – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Kirsten Keach is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Orlando, Florida. Her specialty is relationships. She helps couples and singles develop meaningful, lasting, soulful love relationships. In her free time she is an avid traveler, improv comedy performer & amateur salsa dancer. Learn more about Kirsten here.

Video Resources Provided by the ACEP Humanitarian Committee

The mission of the ACEP Humanitarian Committee is to develop and implement humanitarian projects that alleviate emotional distress caused by catastrophic natural and man-made events around the globe. We do this by encouraging and assisting ACEP members in developing humanitarian projects that utilize recognized energy psychology and other modalities that meet ACEP’s standards and guidelines. Learn more here.

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