Grief and losing a loved one are among life’s most traumatizing events. It’s a profound emotion that knows no bounds, and its impact on our lives can be both unexpected and all-encompassing. The pain, sadness, and emotional complexity that accompany grief can be overwhelming, and the process of healing is unique for everyone. It’s a journey that often unfolds unpredictably, with waves of sorrow and moments of reflection.
For those who are simultaneously navigating the depths of grief and embarking on the emotional journey of wedding planning, the experience becomes even more complex. Having planned my own micro wedding during a period of grief, I can personally relate to the complexities of this journey.
In this blog post, I’ll go through some of the intricacies of planning a wedding while navigating the challenging terrain of grief and offer a bit of reflection into this very personal journey.
One of the most surprising aspects is just how emotionally complex it all can be. We often expect emotions to be black-and-white – either all good or all bad. However, the reality is far from that. This emotional complexity becomes particularly apparent when you’re not only planning a wedding but also navigating personal grief.
The joy of getting engaged and looking forward to your wedding day becomes intermingled with the sadness of loss. It’s a trying experience that may lead to moments of guilt or shame. You may experience guilt for feeling happy, as if you’re somehow disrespecting your loved one’s memory, or guilt for feeling sad, as if you’re dismissing your partner’s feelings.
At the end of the day, having compassion for yourself is paramount. It’s okay that not every emotion is a happy one or that you do not experience your grief singularly.
While wedding planning often comes with its own set of challenges, it’s important to recognize that much of this stress can be considered “eustress” – a type of stress that’s considered beneficial and can drive us to achieve our goals. However, when you’re dealing with grief while planning your special day, it’s crucial to be aware of the fine line between eustress and distress and prioritize self-care.
This concept of eustress doesn’t negate the very real stressors that come with wedding planning, but it highlights that most of these stresses are focused on the positive and rewarding aspects of this significant life event. However, when grief becomes part of the equation, that transition from eustress to distress can sneak up on you, and it’s vital to take proactive steps to navigate and alleviate these extra-emotional challenges.
While navigating this intricate journey, the thought and presence of family and friends can sometimes stir profound emotions, serving as a poignant reminder of your loved one’s absence. The grief can be particularly strong during wedding-related events in which your loved one would have participated, such as wedding dress shopping, planning guest lists, and even addressing invites. At times, you may even find yourself reaching for your phone to text or call your loved one when making wedding-related decisions, only to be reminded of your loss.
In these moments, it may be beneficial to focus on finding ways to honor your lost loved one’s memory and allowing their presence to be felt in a way that brings comfort and warmth to your wedding day.
On your wedding day, you may want to consider ways of honoring your lost loved one. Because individuals process grief so differently, your approach may vary dramatically. Be compassionate in finding what feels right for you.
One heartfelt option is to reserve a special seat at your ceremony and/or dinner table, symbolizing the presence of your loved one. This vacant chair becomes a thoughtful reminder of their enduring significance in your life, even in their physical absence.
Another touching gesture is to include a memorial candle in your wedding ceremony. Lighting this candle can symbolize the enduring light of your loved one’s memory as you begin this new chapter.
Some couples opt for a memorial table, a dedicated space adorned with photos, candles, and keepsakes that celebrate the cherished person they’ve lost. It becomes a point of connection for your guests, encouraging them to share in your cherished memories.
For a more private remembrance, consider incorporating something borrowed from your loved one. This might be a piece of their clothing creatively integrated into your wedding attire, like sewing it into your gown or suit. You could even have words with special meaning embroidered on your wedding attire. Alternatively, you can wear a piece of special jewelry to keep their memory close to your heart throughout the day.
Your tribute can take any form that feels right to you. What’s most important is ensuring it brings comfort and warmth to your wedding day.
While planning your wedding during these challenging times, it’s essential to maintain your well-being and create a meaningful and healing wedding experience. One of these strategies could involve meditation. While meditation can’t make your grief magically disappear, it can serve as a valuable tool to ground yourself and find resilience.
Personally, I am particularly fond of emotional body scans as a form of meditation. These practices help in understanding and accepting your emotions more fully. Emotional body scans encourage you to explore your emotional response by focusing on your body and its physical sensations systematically, part by part. Even dedicating just 10 minutes to this practice can make a significant difference in your emotional well-being.
Even if you don’t know where to start, there are many resources available to help you with these meditative practices. For instance, Insight Timer offers a variety of guided meditations specifically designed for emotional body scans, making it easier to incorporate this practice into your daily routine.
While meditation can offer a valuable tool for understanding and accepting your emotions, it’s just one piece of the picture. Navigating the wedding planning journey while dealing with grief requires finding essential support. This support is crucial during these emotionally fraught times, and it can come from a variety of sources.
Your partner, in particular, can be your foundation, providing the understanding and space you need. And, for those currently supporting a grieving partner, one of the greatest acts of love you can offer is to create that space for their emotions without judgment or instilling pressure to solve their problems.
Furthermore, those seeking connection with others who can relate to their experience might find solace through online or in-person grief support groups. These communities offer a safe space to share and receive guidance. Additionally, one-on-one therapy can be particularly helpful, providing you with the resources needed to manage such an emotionally delicate time.
For those who embrace spirituality, recognizing signs and spiritual connections can serve as a source of solace and guidance, especially during times of grief.
As someone who values spirituality, I wholeheartedly encourage you to remain open to signs. They may manifest as subtle feelings, intriguing sights, or sounds. Whenever you see these instances as signs, try to embrace them with appreciation rather than skepticism. These signs can be profound moments that connect you with your loved one.
One particularly touching example that I was blessed to personally witness comes from a couple who, like you, navigated this challenging journey. On their wedding day, something very special happened – a hummingbird unexpectedly entered the room through the open glass doors. In numerous cultures, hummingbirds carry special significance as spiritual messengers. This unanticipated visitation was a powerful reminder that sometimes, during life’s most significant moments, we receive subtle yet powerful signs that we are not alone in our journey.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for navigating your wedding day in the shadow of grief, your unique journey will be shaped by personal circumstances and emotional needs. The approaches that provide comfort and support vary widely from one couple to another.
Some may find solace in the quiet intimacy of a scaled-back wedding with a selective guest list, allowing space for their emotions to ebb and flow organically as they celebrate. This more intimate setting can create a safe space to honor your loved one’s memory.
For others, the thought of managing all the wedding planning details might feel like an insurmountable challenge during this emotionally sensitive time. In this case, outsourcing much of the planning can be a wise choice that allows you to sidestep potential triggers and alleviates the pressures that might otherwise intensify your grief. By entrusting professionals with the logistics, you can focus on nurturing your well-being, cherishing your love, and integrating the memory of your lost loved one into your special day in a way that feels meaningful.
As a wedding photographer, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing countless love stories, each uniquely special. Yet, I also understand that life sometimes intertwines joy with sorrow, and planning a wedding in the shadow of grief can be particularly challenging.
Grief is heartbreaking, and when it becomes a part of your wedding journey, there’s no roadmap to follow. It’s a path filled with emotional ambiguity, where happiness and sorrow often coexist. But it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel any and all of these emotions. The sadness that loss brings is natural, but so is the happiness that love and celebrations can offer. It’s all part of the healing process.
Your wedding day is a celebration of love that endures even in the face of loss. My wish for you is to capture the authenticity of your love and the strength that has brought you to this moment. So, when you’re ready, reach out, and let’s preserve those beautiful moments together.
I wish you light and love along your healing journey.