Those of us who mourn may have difficulty facing special occasions. The memories associated with birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays can turn memorable events of the past into moments of dread. The four-month stretch from November through February brings the realization that we face four holidays. DON’T try to handle the prospects of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day all at once. Take each holiday or special event one step at a time, one day at a time.
The following suggestions, gathered from experience and a variety of sources over the years, are offered for your consideration:
• Plan ahead. Surprises may evoke deeper feelings. Thinking through some of the possibilities and making plans ahead of time often defuses some of the impact that a holiday or other special milestone can have on you. Try to avoid being “blind-sided.”
• Be prepared to be flexible. You can’t control everything and everybody. Allow for schedules to be adjusted. Compromise may become the key during the holidays.
• Change can be good and difficult at the same time. Things will never be just the way they were. The very fact that we are mourning a loss suggests change. Realizing that changes are unavoidable doesn’t take away the challenges of actually making the changes.
• Be easy on yourself. You can’t please everyone, so don’t get bent out of shape trying! From time to time, ask yourself, “Am I making a bigger deal about this than others?” Don’t push yourself too hard.
• Evaluate your ability to cope in various situations. Know your limitations and your ability to function in the circumstances and with the people associated with the upcoming holiday. Stay away from situations you feel you can’t handle, or put in a brief appearance in the company of a trusted friend who will help you through it.
• Give yourself what you need. Some of us are better at helping others than allowing ourselves to be helped. Ask for help during the potentially draining holiday times. Be willing to give up previous “sacred territory” or jobs to those who are ready to help.
• Enjoy what you can, when you can. Be picky this holiday season. Don’t start out with the expectation that you will do everything that well-intentioned family and friends suggest for you.
• Be gentle on others, too. Their emotional reserves may be just as depleted as yours. Be as patient and kind with others as you would want them to be with you. Give yourself a break from people if you feel too stressed to be pleasant around them.
• Do something for others. Small acts of kindness for others may bring us out of our own “cloudy existence” for awhile. Don’t go overboard in the service department, though. Know your limits.
• Don’t deprive children of their holidays. As tough as it may be for us, remember that children’s grief may be expressed periodically and episodically over a number of years. Give them as much of their holiday as you can. Enlist the aid of others to help you with the children if necessary.
• Include whatever spiritual activities are helpful for you. Don’t neglect the value of prayer, attending religious or social gatherings with people of your faith, and/or reading spiritual materials for inspiration.
• Remember the value of memories, rituals, and traditions. Decide how you want to keep the memory of your loved one alive. Honor their life by keeping some of the old traditions. Being rigid about all customs and traditions, however, may add to the frustration of everyone involved.
• Be prepared to begin some new traditions. Acknowledge your hope for the future by starting some forward-looking traditions.
• Realize that there are many holidays and anniversaries during the year. Be aware of how you are feeling as other special events approach. Give yourself the emotional care you need no matter what time of year.
• Remember -- whatever we do after the death is for the living. Participate in activities which are meaningful to you. Life goes on, and the impact of a loved one’s life lives on in us.
by Danny Mize, Bereavement Facilitator
Volunteer and Advisory Council Member With
The Hope and Healing Place
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