Grief is inherently a part of every wedding journey. This is because it marks a significant life transition for you and your community. With change, even if it’s positive, comes some aspect of letting go. Grief is simply our mind’s natural response to this loss.
Feelings of loss may arise from various points in the wedding journey. They may stem from an inner knowing that you’re stepping away from the family you grew up with or from the deep love you feel from a loved one who has passed on and won’t be there in the way you had always imagined.
Every loss comes with a grief unique to you and your love.
Some of you may not realize you have these feelings until after the whirlwind of the wedding is over. Suddenly, you’re married, and you feel sad. It can be hard to understand these emotions because all everyone ever talks about is the joyous, happy, beautiful side of weddings. But please know, grief is a natural part of the process.
Some of you may be like me and carry grief with you day to day. When you’re planning your wedding, you’re thinking about how you will miss your loved one, how you will honor and remember them on your special day, and how you will have to change certain traditions to accommodate their absence.
But like in so much of wedding planning, we forget that there are real and important feelings that come with these planning questions. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned through my grief, it is the importance of allowing those feelings to be felt!
When I lost my dad in 2013, it came as a surprise because he kept his illness hidden from us so as not to “take away from the wedding.” I navigated that grief like a total boss! I meditated for an hour every day for months, allowing myself to journal, dance, cry, scream, sing, and whatever else I was moved to do. I had the time, and I used it!
When my mom died in 2019, my daughter was 4 months old, my son was about to turn 4. I had no time to grieve. And it didn’t help that this loss came without any warning. Grieving while parenting (or planning a wedding) is a totally different experience!
Here are 3 universal tips and tools for moving through grief
No matter what kind of grief you are feeling or how old the grief is, these tools will help you feel more grounded, peaceful, and able to breathe.
1. Please know there are NO stages of grief.
Yes, you may feel anger, denial, sadness, jealousy…. But they are not neat stepping stones leading you across the rushing river to a bank labeled: “no grief.”
Instead, grief is like an ocean, the emotions like waves washing over you. Sometimes the waves of grief feel as if they are pummeling you, over and over, as you try to catch your breath. Other times they gently rock you, reminding you of the deep love you feel. And sometimes, the waves of grief lap softly at your feet as if to say, “I’m still here, but enjoy that ocean view.”
2. Know the Signs
So, here’s the thing about grief. We literally carry it in our bodies. You may experience mental fog, physical pain, or illness from your grief. You may also find yourself being extra critical of others (especially your partner), less patient or understanding about little things, and more quick to yell or cry when talking with loved ones. When I find myself getting angry with my partner because the dishwasher isn’t unloaded or the table is not wiped down – I know I have grief that needs my attention… It’s time to tend my grief garden.
3. Tending your Grief Garden
The beauty of grief is that when you allow yourself to feel your way through it, beautiful things can grow. For me, it was my Reiki practice and deepening my service to others. Another person I know discovered his love and talent for painting.
Just like a real garden, grief gardens need tending – time and attention to care for what’s there. Release the emotions that are blocking out the sun. Nurture the practices that make you feel whole and help you grow.
Tending your grief garden can take different forms, but the basis of all is loving acceptance. Instead of trying to control your grief or “be strong,” schedule time to allow yourself to feel. For some, a support group is helpful, others prefer intentional time alone with a journal. I have personally felt enormous benefits from receiving distance energy work, like Reiki, to create space for my grief to release in the form of tears.
There is, of course, no “right” way – you have to experiment and find what works for you.
A closing note…
If you are not personally grieving at this moment, please remember that some of your loved ones are (even if they’re not conscious of it). Because of this, people that you’ve come to rely on or expect to be there for you in a certain way may not be their “typical” selves. If you can extend some grace and compassion their way, you’ll find everything will unfold a bit easier.
Kate Mariah is Colorado’s first and only Wedding Doula, bringing a unique blend of mental, emotional, and spiritual support to couples on their journey to be wed. With her deep understanding of weddings, grief, mindfulness, and healing, Kate provides a thoughtful and nurturing presence throughout the wedding planning process and on the big day itself.