Friday, December 21, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, December 21, 2012 13 comments
As an author who writes about grief, specifically a loss that occurs during the holidays, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to talk about how to cope with the pain of loss during what's supposed to be a joyful season.

I highly recommend this wonderful series from griefshare.org, "Surviving the Holidays."

A few practical things I gleaned from it:

image by Bekahboo42, morguefile.com
Keep your expectations low
It's not necessary to accept every invitation, nor do the level of decorating and baking you've done other years. You're more vulnerable to being ambushed by emotions by the season, so don't add more stress.

Take care of your body
Exercise and exposure to sunlight should be part of your daily routine. If you feel like self-medicating with alcohol or unhealthy food, take a walk.

Dispense with the usual traditions or build new ones
If the thought of going through the usual holiday rituals fills you with dread, give yourself permission to do something completely different. Leave the usual ornaments in a box and make new ones. Take an impromptu trip to a lovely destination, or offer to house-sit for friends who are traveling. Change the time of day or room in which you open gifts. Make a completely different menu.

You might alternately find it comforting to build new traditions into your existing ones that honor your lost loved one. Here are some ideas for doing that.

Treat yourself
Give yourself a gift from your lost loved one, something that honors the special relationship you had or simply comforts you: a new album if you shared a love of music, an item of clothing in your loved one's favorite color, a book you've been eager to read, tools for a hobby you've always wanted to try.

Stay connected
Force yourself to attend social gatherings, if only for a short time. Try to plan a few fun activities with a good friend, like seeing a movie or concert or going out for coffee.

Reach out
Get involved with charity work--perhaps visiting a nursing home, delivering meals to needy families, serving at a homeless shelter. Supporting others who are also hurting can ease some of your pain.

Have you endured a post-loss Christmas? What helped you most? How might you reach out to a grieving friend during the holidays?
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13 comments:

  1. Oh man, staying connected is hard for me (I hate going out in the cold!) but staying interacted with people really does make a difference.

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    1. Wishing you a connected Christmas, full of love and support!

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  2. Thank you for this post, Laurel.
    This Christmas will be the first for our family since my husband's mother died this spring...and a lot of things are certainly harder. I think the fact that all of us have a very firm faith makes it easiER--but that doesn't mean it's easy. And it also helps to be there for each other, and to have the support of so many friends going out of their ways to help.
    I hope you have a beautiful, blessed Christmas, Laurel!

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    1. That's hard. Praying for your hubby especially. I hope you all can find a way to honor and remember his mother in a way that brings you all a measure of peace and healing.

      One of the pieces on that site I mention brings up the fact people of faith are not commanded to not grieve, but to not grieve "without hope." That's a key difference. While we deeply miss deceased loved ones, we have faith that the separation is temporary.

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  3. thanks for the topic post! very inspiring and reminding!! happy holidays

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  4. Never forget that it takes only one person or one idea to change your life forever.

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  5. I work in psych, so I know what you're talking about, but it still always amazes me that Christmas is depressing for people because Jesus came for the hopeless.

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    1. You also know how much depression rises in the winter due to seasonal affective disorder--there is a strong physical/chemical issue that arises especially as the amount of daylight get shorter. That, along with a sense for some that their relationships aren't working well, that they won't have Kodak moments with family, can make it hard. Yes, there is comfort in Jesus coming humbly to rescue the hopeless, but it might be a very flickering, quiet hope, not a rollicking, jolly one.

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  6. Meanwhile, I've got an award for you :-)

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    1. Kewl. Thanks! I've been on a blog-cation this week.

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  7. This was a great post. We spent Christmas with my grandmother who was grieving for my grandfather. But, thankfully, the distraction of great grandchildren really helped her enjoy the day.

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    1. Glad you were all able to give her the support she needed to have a good day, and I hope build some new, happy memories.

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