Planning a Wedding While Grieving

“Everyone’s ways of coping are different,” said Litsa Williams, 42, a social worker and a founder of What’s Your Grief, an online grief support and education company, and the author of What’s Your Grief, published this year. “It can be helpful in really practical ways to think about, how do I want my connection to my loved one who died to be part of my wedding? And thinking about how that can be personal and private and individual and how it can also be shared and public and something that’s part of the day”

Ms. Soffer, 46, whose mother was killed in a car crash about 16 years ago, had a seamstress snip off a piece of fabric from her mother’s hot-pink, woven wedding dress and create a heart shape. Her mother’s initials were embroidered into the fabric, and the heart sewn inside the hem of her wedding dress.

“I gave myself permission to pull her into the day in a way I really needed to, and I freed up that energy to enjoy myself and not think about how much she wasn’t there,” she said.

Some people, like Debbie Wieck, 58, an early childhood teacher at a preschool outside Sydney, Australia, take even more creative approaches. Ms. Wieck lost her 20-year-old son, Jacob, in October 2015, after a 13-month struggle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a soft tissue and bone cancer.

She made a life-size cardboard cutout of Jacob. She brings it to almost every family function, taking photos with him and toasting him. This past April, he “attended” his sister’s wedding.

 “People may think we’re a bit weird in the things we do to keep him connected to our lives,” she said in an email. But she doesn’t care. “He will celebrate with us future engagements, weddings and births of new generations of family in this cardboard form — next to me, next to us.”