Memorial Day, or National Grief Acknowledgement Day?

Image via Mark Fischer

It's Memorial Day weekend in the States.

For most people, that means cookouts, barbecues, parades and a day off from work.

For the widowed community, and for families grieving the loss of a family member, it's just one more day on the calendar they have to endure, rather than celebrate. It's one more gigantic "festive" event that they're called to either ignore, or attend while pretending it isn't torturous to be there this way: Without the ones they love.

Attending big public celebrations can be extremely difficult when you're in pain.

Of course, the actual meaning of the holiday is rooted in grief: It's meant as a weekend, a day, to remember those who have died in service to their country, or who died after service to their country.

We have parades and fireworks to celebrate, or we get into heated political debates as to whether war should be happening or not, but both those ends of the spectrum miss the point:

People have died, and we miss them. People have died, and we need to remember who they were, where they were, and why they died.

Whether we agree with the "why," the facts still remain: someone died. Many people died. And they left behind people like us, people like you: people with broken hearts, shattered lives and empty spaces that cannot ever be filled.

In a sense, Memorial Day weekend should usher this country into the griever's world: The every day reality of grief. Memorial Day should (or could) be a time when the whole nation bows its collective head to its collective heart, and says: Ow. Ow. OW. This hurts.

It could, or it should, be a time when the whole country stops arguing and debating and generally just being jerks, and stands, silently, in awe of the lives that are gone, the lives that have been taken. We could, and we should, stand in respect for the broken hearts still beating, still living here, even after the ones they love have died.

It could be a day of acknowledgement. Of entering into grief, if just for one short day. Beyond all the politics, beyond all the partying. Acknowledgement is powerful.

Just one day, where we all bow our heads and say: you were here, you lived, and you're gone.

Just one day to feel into the reality of that grief. And just say - thank you.

And then -- after the acknowledgment -- we can have a barbeque that celebrates life.

That would work for me.

How about you? How does Memorial Day affect you and your family? What do you think about National Grief Acknowledgment day?


Megan Devine is the author of the audio book, When Everything is Not Okay: Practices to Help You Stay in Your Heart & Not Lose Your Mind. She writes, speaks, and teaches on out-of-order death and how we withstand suffering that cannot be fixed. You can find her at, where you can also join the upcoming session of her popular Writing Your Grief 30 day course. As one student wrote, "In a world of Kardashians and cat videos, the Writing Your Grief course kind of redeems the internet." Come see why.