Memorial Day is an important event that holds a lot of weight for many individuals in the United States. It is a day of remembrance – not just remembering the fallen men and women that make up our armed forces, but their work and the ideals protected by their service and sacrifice. However, the real reason for Memorial Day often gets pushed aside in the wake of promotions, weekend sales, and a day off from work. Still, the reason for the holiday should never be lost. It lives on in the hearts of those that the holiday affects the most: the families and loved ones of fallen soldiers that make up our country today. These individuals hold on to their feelings of grief, but Memorial Day does not necessarily have to be a day of sorrow.
Prepare for the Day
Overcoming grief and loss can be a lifelong trial. However, this particular day is something that one can actively prepare for. It is a day that is designed to bring out a bit of that grief. Preparations can be made to handle the inevitable emotions that come with this particular calendar date. With knowledge comes power. With power comes the agency to make the day less of a depressing experience and more of a celebration. We can choose to recall the best parts of the lives of those lost. The first obstacle to preparing for Memorial Day is dealing with the outside world that sees it as just another holiday. For them, it is only a day off, a long weekend, and a good sale. This creates feelings of anger and isolation in addition to the grief that comes with remembering the lost in the first place. So, it is not the time to be alone.
That day off is not without its reason. It is so communities and families can come together and have that time to remember and honor together. It is essential to be surrounded in these times of grief. Find other people who have experienced a similar loss and those willing to listen and walk alongside us on these difficult days. Isolation is one of the worst antagonists of grief. Use that calendar date to create a plan and get a group of people together, including fellow sufferers and sympathetic loved ones. With this group, it will be easier to experience all the different emotions that come with the day.
Allow for All Emotions
Emotions of grief are complicated and present a whole slew of contradictions. Grief is often a combination of sadness and guilt. This bereavement can also be bittersweet, including fond memories of our loved ones. While grieving, it can be difficult to allow oneself to really experience these memories, feeling that there is some rule that one must be sad when remembering. In actuality, all of these emotions are equally valid, and denying any one of them – from the happy to the tragic – only worsens things. Share that joke or memory. Allow laughter into your life. Allow those who may not have known the person to participate in the joy our loved one brought us. It is a day for all to remember.
Creating a Tradition
Being with likeminded people creates an opportunity to not just remember those that fell in the line of duty but also celebrate and truly honor them. Allow these experiences to create a new practice, a new activity in honor of that person. Use their memory to create joy once again for everyone willing to participate. Celebrate with a barbeque and a night of stories. Others may choose a day at the golfing range in memorial of the person as they were. Celebrate their hobbies and everything outside of their lives in the line of service. Create the tradition and start planning that calendar date each year. Let it be a day of community for each and every emotion – from tears of sadness to joy – to flow.
Grief may not allocate itself to a single day a year. Still, Memorial Day provides not just a great sale, but an outlet and opportunity to celebrate the holiday for everything that it is meant to represent. For loved ones and those sympathetic to learning about the men and women that protect them each day, allow the memorial to create a new tradition, and a continuing community of memories for time perpetual.
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