Are you up for a Halloween Celebration This Year? The Triggers Could be Haunting
Updated: Jan 10
By Jill S. Cohen, NYC family grief counselor
We all know that holidays can be difficult after the death of a loved one. We tend to think of holidays as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, New Year’s Day, and other big ones. But… Boo … there is also Halloween knocking at the door, trying to intrude on your grief. This is a holiday that also comes with the possibility of grief triggers.
Why might Halloween be tricky for some grievers?
It’s not just a kid’s holiday. Children and adults alike take part in the Halloween dressing up, candy munching, and having an excuse to host or go to a party. This may bring up memories of the past, when there may have been a cheerful “Happy Halloween” feeling and festivity around you. Halloween holds traditions for many people, just as other holidays do. You can be sad on this happy holiday and stay away. Or you can try to dust off your costume and give Halloween a try. Your choice. Or dress up as a griever, which already probably scares people!
Halloween emphasizes children. They are the trick-or-treaters and the ones in the cutest costumes. If you are grieving the death of a baby, child or adolescent, watching the fun festivities going on around you may be tricky. If the thought of lots of kids at the door gives you the spooks, keep the lights off or leave the house, to avoid the onslaught of kids in search of candy. Or, you may want to celebrate with the children just as you would have in the past.
Halloween symbols can be very scary, especially the ones with the death symbolization. Spirits, ghosts, tombstones, graveyards, skeletons and other reminders of death are everywhere during October. Adults may find it difficult to look at these symbols in the harmless and playful way they once did. And, children may ask questions like – “What happens to you after you die?”, “What happens to your body?, “Are ghosts real?” – and may find these images as spooky as they were meant to be. So, be prepared.
A witch on a broomstick may remind you of yourself if you’ve been feeling particularly cranky and mean-spirited as you adjust to a new life without your loved one. If so, you’re in good company on Halloween.
If you are supporting a young child who is grieving, you may want to check in with them about how they are feeling about Halloween. There may be a lot for them to be scared or sad about.
Halloween is a really playful holiday. Some people really get into the theme and decorate for months leading up to it, and then, really party. If you’re not feeling it this year, don’t worry. Skip it. Halloween comes around every year, so you have many more chances to celebrate it when you’re in the mood. Grief takes a lot of the joy and enthusiasm out of you, so this might be the year to take a pass on the celebration.
Whatever happens this Halloween, whether you’re triggered or not, as always, remember that a griever has permission to do whatever feels right to them.