Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grief and the Holidays


With the holidays come reminders of their loss for those who are grieving.  Others are savoring a time of joy, sharing memories, and coming together in love. For those who are grieving, the holidays are a vivid reminder of who is NOT there.

Many grieving people find this the most difficult time of the year.  They cannot forget and cannot bury the pain.  Their hearts, minds and bodies are grieving and not functioning in their full capacities, as though part of them is missing.  These are natural feelings—they are all a part of the process—they can share them, accept them, and feel them.

Ways of Coping
As the holidays approach, it may help for those who are grieving to start with a blank slate. Accept that they may not have the energy or desire to accomplish all the things that people have come to expect during the holidays.

Rather than do things automatically, they can discuss and think about what they really want to do, what they don’t want to do, and what will be difficult but they want to try anyway.  Grief experts encourage people not to be afraid to change traditions or start new ones.

Equally important is to acknowledge how one feels.  Many recently bereaved worry they will spoil the holidays for others.  According to families Pathways has counseled, the most painful thing is when they try to keep their feelings inside. 

If friends or family members take the initiative to talk about the person who has died, it relieves the tension and creates an opportunity for sharing. 

Managing Grief
While there are no universal methods for healing and coping, there are some concrete things a person can do that may make the holidays easier and provide an opportunity to honor loved ones who have died.  

Grieving families can:
  • Acknowledge the grief; accept whatever mood occurs.
  • Remember they are not alone.  Attend a remembrance event or grief support group.
  • Give themselves permission to let go of certain traditions—it’s okay to make changes.
  • Share plans with others; let them know how they can help.
  • Reserve time to honor the loved one quietly, alone or with others—light a candle, place a photograph on the table, share memories, or make a memorial donation.
And finally, grieving family members should remember to care for themselves at this time.

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