Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Challenging Season

We are once again in the midst of the holiday season, an emotional and challenging one for most families who have lost a child. Last year I gave some practical tips to help those dealing with grief and the loss of a child. I’d like to emphasize and add to that list this year knowing there is no roadmap for easy navigation.

TAKE CHARGE OF HOLIDAY PLANS. Map out how to spend the holidays, whether it is with family, friends, a little of both, or with strangers on a trip. There is no way to escape grief and all the reminders of the holidays, such as songs played on the radio, the sounds of laughter, or the smell of a turkey or ham cooking. But one needs to relieve the anxiety that comes this time of year. Spending the holidays where you feel nurtured, emotionally safe and comfortable is a good idea.

CHANGING TRADITIONS. Sometimes a new location, a different project for the holidays will make the season more bearable. Some traditions may be a comfort, while others might cause pain. For example, you may want to set up your Christmas tree with memories of your child on it in pictures, while you may not want to invite relatives over for Christmas dinner and listen to all the stories of other children’s activities. Consider which traditions to keep and which to let go of this year. Don’t feel like you have to do something because you have always done it.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE; SHARE YOUR HOLIDAY WITH OTHERS. This can be with others you don’t know. There are many people who are alone during the holidays and would love to get a visit. Check with hospitals and perhaps volunteer your services for a local charity or in a soup kitchen during this time of year. Donating not only time but also money to your favorite charity allows us to feel like we are contributing to a greater good. Helping others who are also grieving also takes the focus off ourselves and our pain.

USE A SUPPORT SYSTEM. Having someone to talk to and share your feelings with is a excellent way to get through the holidays. Not only do you need friends and relatives during times of grief but there are also a great variety of support groups everywhere. Call hospitals, churches, hospice, community centers, Compassionate Friends or Bereaved Parents USA to find a group that suites you. Meeting others in the same situation as you can develop understanding and friendships that may last a lifetime. No one else understands like another bereaved person.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. It is often difficult for those who have experienced a loss to sleep, eat, exercise, rest and remember to drink lots of water. It is important to do all of these in order to function on a day to day basis. If you feel you can’t handle all this, there is nothing wrong with talking to and seeking help from a medical provider.

YOU WILL SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS AND BEYOND. Above all, remember that you are a survivor and will make it through the holidays and continue with your life and the things that matter most to you. This time of year is probably the most difficult during your grief journey, but you can and will get through it. The best gift you can give anyone you love, even someone you have lost, is being true to yourself and living your life to the fullest.

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