Coping with the ‘firsts’ after a death

When someone close to you dies, there are a number of ‘firsts’ that you’ll experience in the first year after their death. These can range from more obvious diary dates that you can prepare for, through to unexpected ‘firsts’ that may catch you by surprise. Many people find the first year after someone dies the most difficult to cope with, and the magnitude of a year of ‘firsts’ can feel overwhelming. Whilst no one can take away the pain, there are things you can do to support yourself through this time…

What ‘firsts’ should I expect when someone dies?

The big dates in your diary

The most obvious firsts typically involve celebrations, anniversaries, holidays and birthdays (including the birthday of the deceased). These occasions are the ones that are associated with happiness and cherished memories, and can be particularly painful for anyone coping with grief. Whilst you can’t avoid the pain of these occasions, you can plan ahead for them, making decisions about what may help you through ahead of time.

The unexpected firsts

Not all firsts are big dates in your diary, some of the most difficult moments are the ones that catch you by surprise. They could be seemingly insignificant moments that carry a lot of personal meaning, such as sending or receiving a card without their name on it, hearing their favourite song on the radio, filling out paperwork without their details on, or doing a task that they always did. These moments may trigger you in unexpected ways, and may feel unpredictable in nature. This can make unexpected firsts particularly challenging to cope with.

The future firsts

Not all firsts happen in the first year after a person dies. Some firsts may take place many years down the line, such as when someone gets married or has a baby. These future firsts can feel very painful and bring back many of the emotions of grief that have faded with time.

Ways to cope with the ‘firsts’

The challenging thing about the firsts is that you can’t avoid them, but what you can do is prepare for them. It might be helpful to consider which firsts will be the most difficult for you, and whether you would like to acknowledge them in any way.

Be gentle with yourself

Coming to terms with loss can take time, and there is no end date to when you should feel better. Take care of yourself during this time, and try to accept whatever feelings may arise for you. Practicing self-compassion can be really helpful for any experiencing grief.

Plan ahead

Whilst some firsts are unexpected, the majority of firsts are occasions that you can plan ahead for. Try to consider how you will feel on these days, and make arrangements that will help you cope. This could be booking some time off work, spending time with family or cancelling plans you have in place.

Find comfort in the remembrance

Whether it’s lighting a candle, visiting their grave or hosting a get-together with friends and family, key anniversaries provide the perfect opportunity for reflection and remembrance. Whilst these rituals may feel very painful at first, over time they will often become a source of comfort to remember the life lived.

Speak to someone

Talking through your grief can be one of the most beneficial ways to come to terms with a loss. It could be talking to a trusted friend or family member, or calling a national bereavement helpline to speak to someone. For additional emotional support, you could also book some time with a bereavement counsellor.

Bereavement support

For anyone needing bereavement support, the UK has many local and national charities dedicated to supporting those in grief, including…

Our team also work closely with Carole Warren, a bereavement counsellor who is dedicated to providing emotional support to those in need. Our team will be happy to arrange an appointment with Carole on your behalf.

If you would like to find out more about Dillamore can support you, call us on 01525 372 210 or use our contact form. You can also arrange a time to visit us in person using our online appointment booking tool. We’re here for you in your time of need.

Related Articles