In 2 weeks, the US will celebrate Labor Day, where workers get a day off from their job, and we sort of accept that the summer is over, even if the kids are not back at school. It is also a day for families to gather in backyards for barbeques or go to parks or the beach for picnics. Because it can be a day for families to get together, it can be an emotional day for the bereaved family and neither they nor their friends or family may realize this regardless the distance from your loss. Know that it is ok to accept invitations to the festivities and it is ALSO ok to decline the invitation and also ok to change your mind at the last minute and not go, or leave earlier than everyone else.
As I have said many times, I couldn’t find any resources to help me with my grief in 1980, so I allowed myself to listen to “advice” from friends and family who had no idea what I was going through nor did they suffer my kind of loss. Thankfully, there are lots of resources out there now and newly bereaved moms and dads can post their questions for things they aren’t sure about or to see how other people may have handled a similar situation.
My “situation” was 7 months after Lukas died. I had gotten a call from my cousin (who was like a sister to me) that her father had just been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and since Passover was coming, she asked me and my then husband to come to my other aunt’s house for his last Passover and which all the members of the family who lived in the area would also be coming. As soon as I understood what she was asking I said no. I just couldn’t do it. The last time I had seen my aunts and uncles were when they came to visit me at the hospital after Lukas died. Although I was slowly making my way back into the world and had gone back to work just the previous month no one knew my story there. I really wasn’t ready to face a “crowd”. I just knew I shouldn’t go to Passover. I said no many times and I think her mom called me as well and to make a long story short, knowing that it wasn’t a good idea, I still went.
What should have been a ride of about an hour and a half turned into 3 hours because of major traffic. All the while, I was filled with dread. I should have turned the car around and gone home but I didn’t. I felt I couldn’t change my mind. Well we arrived and my other cousin was there with her baby who was turning 2 that day which we would celebrate as well (and which I didn’t know when I was invited). I took one look at the baby and went straight into the bathroom and cried for a long time. When there was a knock on the door to see how I was doing, I remember crying out that my cousin (different than the one who had invited me) had her baby and I wanted my baby. It went downhill after that. We spoke to no one and just sat in the corner. After the meal was concluded we left and drove another 3 hours back home.
As I have written about before about finding your voice and letting your grief do your talking, that’s what I should have done. I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know that I was in charge of my own healing and could say yes or no to any advice or suggestions that were imparted to me. I knew that I should have called my cousin back a few days later and told her that I thought about it and I couldn’t do it. I should have said that I would come to visit my uncle at another time but I didn’t. I didn’t want to hurt, anger or disappoint anyone because I was afraid they would leave my life and I just couldn’t take another loss. It has been 37 years since that incident and I remember it.
So as Labor Day approaches, think how you want to spend the day and then do it how you want, whether it be at the bbqs and picnics with friends and family, or alone with your partner. Allow yourself to change your mind as many times as you need to until you are comfortable with the decision you have made. And also know that if you participate at any of these events, you are allowed to have a good time and enjoy yourself.