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You’ve waited your whole life for your wedding day, and now a virus bigger than the love you and your partner share is threatening the day of your dreams.  As brides and grooms make the hard decisions to postpone or pivot to virtual options, grief is a normal and expected response … and labeling your experience as grief is the first step to processing that grief.

What is grief?

Grief is often characterized by five stages:  denial, anger, bargaining, despair, and acceptance.  The five stages provide a useful framework for labeling your reactions to crisis and loss, but it’s important to realize that the five stages are not linear.  Instead, people often cycle through the stages many times in many ways.  

While the stages of grief may seem to oversimplify a complex process, they do highlight some core truths about the human condition:

  • In general, humans don’t accept sadness, harsh realities, or change quickly or easily.  
  • We often meet change and sadness with our feet dragging and clinging to what once was, but no longer is.  
  • Instead of quick acceptance and adaptation when faced with change or loss, we accept these changes and losses gradually, over time, and with difficulty.  

In other words, accepting the changes to your wedding plans isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a walk in the park.  It’s okay that you’re struggling and grieving.  It’s an appropriate, expected response, but it still isn’t easy. 

Tips for navigating grief:

  • Acknowledge that what you’re feeling is grief … the first step to processing an emotion is to name it; that act alone can start to reduce the intensity of the emotion.
  • Prioritize self-care … heap on the self compassion, breathe deeply, and nurture your mind, body, and spirit in a way that is restorative for you.
  • Work towards acceptance … focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t control.
  • Avoid comparative suffering, which is the all-too-tired mantra of, ‘how can I complain when others have it so much worse?’ … you may be thinking, “who am I to grieve postponing a wedding when people’s loved ones are dying?”  … here’s the thing:  both are painful experiences, and both deserve to be met with self-compassion, kindness, and empathy. 
  • Reach out for support … know that you don’t have to pretend it’s all okay.  Lean on friends and family, and if you find you’re struggling to cope, know that counseling can help.

How The 5 Stages of Grief may Manifest for Brides & Grooms:

  • Denial – manifests in thoughts like, This virus isn’t that big of a deal.  We can reschedule for July 2020. 
  • Anger – How could this whole year of wedding planning be for nothing?!  
  • Bargaining – Okay, if all  150+ guests social distance for two weeks before the wedding, maybe it can still happen? 
  • Sadness/Despair – I feel hopeless and powerless.  I don’t know when this will end.  All of the unmet expectations and missed celebrations are hard.
  • Acceptance – This isn’t going to be over any time soon.  Let’s figure out how to proceed.

David Kessler, an expert in grief, says “acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies.  We find control in acceptance.”  Acceptance occurs when we acknowledge the facts and surrender to the implications of those facts. In acceptance, we can start dealing as effectively as we can with the changes and loss.  

Acceptance allows us to focus on what we can control and move past the hyper focus on what we can’t control.  I can wash my hands more.  I can connect with loved ones using technology.  I can 

What might acceptance look like for you as you grieve the postponement of your wedding day?

We start adapting, and hopefully, we move into a 6th stage of grief: making meaning.

Making Meaning

Kessler adds a 6th stage of grief:  finding meaning.  When he was in his own grief, he discovered he didn’t want to stop at acceptance.  He needed to find the light in the darkness, even if it was just a flicker. 

As you’re grieving the postponement of your wedding, how can you find meaning in this situation?  Perhaps this extra year can be spent strengthening your relationship, getting to know your future in-laws better, attending premarital counseling, or saving up for a well-deserved honeymoon.  Whatever way you can, work to make meaning out of this time, be kind to yourself, and know that if the only meaning you get out of this is that patience has never been your strong suit, that’s okay too.