Handling Special Occasions

Celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and other occasions after a suicide loss can be challenging. These events can bring up painful memories and feelings, but they also can provide an opportunity to celebrate your loved one.

Follow your intuition and do what feels best to you. You can always choose a different way to observe the occasion the next time. Here are some ways to handle occasions that other survivors of a suicide loss have found helpful.

  • Think about your family's holiday traditions. Consider which ones you would like to continue, and which you would not. Consider developing new traditions if that feels best.
  • Other family members or friends may feel differently than you do about the way occasions have been celebrated in the past. As you are able, talk openly together about your preferences before the holiday so you will know what to expect.
  • Consider whether you want to be with your family and friends for the holiday, or whether it would be more healing for you to be with a smaller group or by yourself this time. Consider taking a trip if that feels right.
  • Be aware that anticipating an event is sometimes harder than the event itself.
  • If you find it comforting to talk about your loved one, let your family and friends know that in advance. Tell them it’s okay to mention your loved one's name.
  • If you would find it comforting, make a plan to get your loved one’s friends and family together to acknowledge her or his birthday. If spending the day alone feels like a better choice, or with just one or two close friends or family, that’s okay, too.
  • Some people who have lost someone to suicide find this ritual helpful for observing holiday gatherings: 
    Light two candles, then blow one out. Explain that the extinguished candle represents the person lost to suicide, and the one that continues to burn represents the loved ones who are present, carrying the memory of our loved one. Let the candle burn throughout the holiday meal or event, placing it aside if you like. The glowing flame remains a quiet reminder of the one who is missing.
  • Above all, bear in mind that there is no correct way to handle holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays. You and your family may decide to try several different approaches before finding one that feels best.

Click here to read stories of how other survivors of suicide loss have coped with holidays.

Click here for two comfort food recipes from Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian, which might be parts of your new tradition and remembrance of your loved one.