The holidays are quickly approaching, and while many people look forward to yearly traditions and gathering some people dread the holidays. For those who have lost a loved one during the past year the holidays may be very difficult and emphasize grief. Often, friends and family of those affected by a loss are unsure what to say, or how to act to support them.
Following is a list of possible suggestions:
- Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals.
- Offer to help the person with baking and/or cleaning. Both tasks can be overwhelming for one trying to deal with raw emotions.
- Offer to help him or her decorate for the holidays.
- Offer to help with holiday shopping or share catalogues or web sites.
- Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and your family.
- Invite your loved one to your home for the holidays.
- Help them prepare and mail holiday cards or holiday e-cards.
- Inquire if they would be interested in volunteering with you this season.
- If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping someone heal. Don’t worry about being conversational…just listen.
- Remind the person you are thinking of them and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.
In general, the best way to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care. They need to be remembered, and they need to know their loved ones are remembered too.
More information is available from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization atwww.caringinfo.org or by calling the Help Line at 1-800-658-8898.
Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, New Year’s; for most people, just thinking about these special days spent with family and friends can bring back a flood of happy memories. However, for others, happy memories are dulled by the pain and sorrow of experiencing the holidays without a loved one who has died.
Holidays and special days are extremely difficult for those who have experienced the death of a loved one, especially during the first year after the death. At a time when everyone is supposed to be happy and enjoying themselves, the bereaved can feel sad, lonely and depressed.
It seems everywhere you turn there is something to break your heart a little more. Everyone you meet asks that question you dread hearing, “What are you doing for the holidays?” They cannot seem to wait for that special day to arrive. You can’t wait for it to be over.
The holidays do not necessarily have to be entirely sad. There are ways to help you cope with your grief during this time:
- Plan Ahead
- Accept Your Limitations
- Taking Care of Yourself
- Be Prepared
- It’s Okay to Feel Sad
- It’s Okay to Feel Good
- Cry, Cry, Cry
- Lower Expectations
- Confide in Someone
*Please consider attending our Support Group and possibly finding some folks who are experiencing many of the same feelings. Or just give us a call if you are having a tough day.
We care and we are here.
As we experience the loss of a loved one, we can seek to find ways to practice self compassion in order to maintain a sense of hope and optimism about life in this New Year.
In his book Understanding Your Grief, bereavement specialist, Alan B. Wolfelt, Ph.D., identifies “the five realms of self-care in grief as: physical, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual.” He says, “if you care for yourself ‘with passion’ in all five realms, you will find your journey through the wilderness much more tolerable. So, be good to yourself.”
How can we consider incorporating self-care in our daily lives after experiencing loss? That “wilderness” of existence Dr. Wolfelt refers to may include your obligation to work each day and then come home to cook a meal, do laundry and complete many other life chores. Maybe it’s not so easy to consider self-care. You have responsibilities to fulfill, others to care for. Or, maybe you live alone now that your loved one is gone and maybe you are retired. The sadness of your loss permeates your existence. It is understandable if you temporarily lose that passion for life. You might feel very tired. One can be paralyzed by sadness. Nevertheless, if we keep in mind Dr. Wolfelt’s five realms of self care and simply take small steps such as a walk at sun-set, watch an up-lifting film, read an engaging and heartwarming book, reach out and call a friend or say a prayer and/or meditate…these can all be ways to practice caring for oneself. Look for what inspires you in life. Go ahead, reach through your sadness and set a goal for yourself to make one change and then another. Give yourself time to adjust. Before you know you it, you may be incorporating self-care in all realms. This may help you to feel a sense of renewal.
Dr. Wolfelt also talks about the importance of having a good support system during the time of adjustment to loss. Getting in touch with family and friends or possibly a minister or support group can become an important way of caring for oneself. Taking action, reaching out, instead of allowing the paralysis of depression set in is what can help you navigate your journey of life.
We can consider, before we care for others, to take time to indulge in self-care. The investment of love and care in oneself can improve one’s quality of life greatly and ultimately the lives of those that we love.
Best wishes in your journey this New Year. If we, at Hospice of the West, can be of help, please give us a call.