Friday, November 25, 2016

Repost: Tips for the holidays

This post was originally published just about a year ago, but it still holds true. The holidays can be difficult for everyone and especially so for those who are mourning a loss. Whether you are just months out, years or decades, the holidays trigger memories of our loved ones who are no longer here and make the absence feel more acute. What follows are some thoughts about how to help ourselves and others who may be grieving as we move through the holiday season. Or really at any time.

Be kind to yourselves. We are all doing the best we can.

Laura, November 2016

What follows was originally published in November of 2015. It has been slightly modified. Copyright Laura S. Packer

I've written before about the struggle of the bereaved during the holidays. I wanted to take a moment and remind everyone that this time of year is tough. There are so many memories and expectations. We remember the things we did with those we loved, the rituals we will never engage in again because the key person is dead. We are surrounded by imagery of and pressure to have the best holiday ever, even when what we really want is to curl up and be left alone.

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind if you are grieving or care for someone who has experienced a loss. These are, of course, from my point of view, but I hope it will be helpful.
  1. Recognize the pain. If I recognize my own pain, instead of trying to bury it, then it becomes easier to bear and something I can share with others who care about me. When my pain is recognized I feel as though my experience is legitimate. 
  2. Recognize the joy. It's okay to celebrate and feel grateful, happy or joyful. Our loved ones would want us to cherish the holidays and our lives just as we cherish their memories.
  3. Don't try to cheer me up. Let me feel sad. It won't last forever and I have good reason to grieve. If my sorrow makes you feel uncomfortable that's not my problem. If you can sit with me and listen while I'm sad that may help more than anything else. 
  4. Grief is non-linear. There are no corners to turn, no bill boards that will announce GRIEF AHEAD or NO MORE GRIEF IN SIGHT. I may seem fine one moment and the next tear up. Laughter, tears, chattiness, quiet are all part of grieving because they are all part of life. If I start crying it's not your fault. It likely has nothing to do with you, it's just another wave of grief. 
  5. Don't pretend my loved one didn't exist. Let me talk about him. Bring him up yourself and see how I react. I don't want the world to forget him. 
  6. Let me have time to myself. Or not. Give me options and help me figure out what is best in this given moment.
  7. You don't know how I feel. In any given moment I might be feeling eviscerated AND grateful that I had the time I did with him AND happy to be with you. It's complicated. Instead of assuming, ask. Each loss is different and we all need be honored in our own grief.
  8. Help me take care of myself. Please don't nag because I'm eating another piece of pie. Instead offer to go for a walk with me. Let me take care of myself as best as I can.
  9. And if I'm seeming okay, let me be okay. If I'm laughing and smiling it doesn't mean I'm all better, it means I feel okay in this moment. Isn't that great? It doesn't mean I grieve him any less, it means I am figuring out how to live in the afterlife.
This is by no means comprehensive. It's what I'm thinking of off the top of my head. What helps you through the holiday season? I'd love to know.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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