Updated: Jun 8
7 June, 2023
Graduation time can be a difficult and emotional time for us Peregrines (parents who have lost a child). Seeing other people's kids graduate and move on to the next chapter of their lives can bring up feelings of sadness, anger, and grief. It is important to acknowledge these feelings and take steps to navigate triggers during this time.
Here are some tips for Peregrines on how to navigate triggers at graduation time. These helped me tremendously:
Take care of ourselves: It is important to prioritize self-care during this time. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise. Take time to do things that bring you joy and comfort. Watch all the crappy movies, eat all the ice cream. Crutches like these can be great coping mechanisms until the tsunami of emotion subsides... and it will. Just like actual crutches, you will be able to drop them in time, moving forward under your own steam.
Plan ahead: If attending a graduation ceremony or event is too difficult, consider planning a special activity or event to honor your child's memory. This could be a small gathering with family and friends, a special meal, or a visit to a meaningful place. If you are in touch with your child's schoolmates, ask them to acknowledge your child in their graduation ceremony. Do what feels right to you. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Trust your gut.
Connect with others: Reach out to other parents who have experienced child loss. They can offer support, understanding, and empathy during this difficult time. Consider joining a support group or online community for parents of child loss. The Lost Travelers Club is one of many. Find the one where you feel safe and supported. After searching for years, I couldn't find one where I felt like I fit in, so I created one myself!
Honor your child's memory: Find ways to honor your child's memory during graduation season. This could be by creating a memory book, scrapbook, or a shadow box with some of their treasures to hang on the wall. You could plant a tree or garden in their honor (even at their school, with permission), or make a memorial donation to a charity in their name.
Seek professional help: If you are struggling with feelings of grief or trauma, consider seeking professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide support and guidance during this difficult time. You may be showing symptoms of PTSD. With this diagnosis, coping tools will be available to you that would not otherwise be accessible. Here is a self-assessment tool:
The PCL-5 PTSD Self-Assessment Test has been shown to be a reliable and valid measure of PTSD. It has been used in a variety of settings, including clinical settings, research settings, and military settings.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have PTSD, the PCL-5 can be a helpful tool for screening for the disorder. However, it is important to remember that the PCL-5 is not a diagnostic tool.
A diagnosis of PTSD can only be made by a qualified mental health professional.
Remember, it is normal to feel a range of emotions during graduation season. Be kind to yourself and take things one day at a time. With support and self-care, you can navigate these and other triggers, and honor your child's memory during this tender time. Graduation time used to be a major trigger for me... until it wasn't. It helped me to cope by envisioning my child "graduating early."
Leave your tips for getting through graduation and other triggering times in the comment section below.