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As The Holidays Approach


Each time we face one of the three great holidays of the year
~ Easter ~ Thanksgiving ~ Christmas ~
our loved one comes alive in us again ~ and dies in us again.



It is best to meet the matter of holidays head ~ on and, however painful, to plan for them. Often the anticipation is worse than the actual holiday.


Talk about your grief; ignoring grief will not make the pain go away.


Holidays are most difficult during the first year after your loved ones going to Heaven. During the second year, they may be better and possible even looked forward to.


Holidays will have different meanings for each memeber of the family, with each person putting a different value on each holiday. Good family dicussions are important in order to dicover how each family member feels about the coming holiday. For example, you may be dreading Christmas, but your child may be looking foreward to the gifts, the tree and the visits and they may fear Chrsitmas won't happen ~ putting added pressure on you to carry on.


It may be helpful to make changes in holiday rituals. Decide which family traditions you want to continue and which new ones you would like to begin; structure your holiday time ~ this helps you to anticipate activities rather than just reacting to whatever happens; leave room for change.


Use the following open ~ ended sentences to determine what's really important to you and your family:



The part I'm really looking forward to the most is...
The part I'm not looking forward to at all is...
To make the day still feel special to me this year, I think we should...
This year I don't want to...
This year I still want to...



Lower your expectations about being at your peak during the holiday season. Feelings of loss will leave you fatigued; low energy levels may naturally slow you down.


During holidays and special days, your children may need more hugs. They need to be told that all their feelings are okay. Don't expect to be able to handle everything yourself. Let other people reach out to your children now.


Include your loved one's name in your holiday conversation; if you can do this, others are more likely to recognize your need to remember your loved one too.


Focus on what YOU want to do; well-meaning friends and family often try to prescrible what is good for you during the holidays; as you become aware of your needs, share them with your friends and family.


Be flexible and patient with yourself. Try to avoid making hurried or thoughtless decisions. Set small goals. If you are invited to holiday parties and want to go, than go. If you don't want to go, that's okay, too.


Cope with holidays and special days as they arise. Concentrate on the good things. Positive thought and attitudes can make a big difference. There is a definite connection between what you think and how you feel.


Children are often able to separate their grief from the joy of the season, and may feel guilty for looking forward to the holidays as a relief from their pain and sadness.


Holidays are stressful even in the best of times. You may find yourself crying more and needing more love. In fact, this is a time when everyone needs more love and attention.


Embrace your treasure of memories. Holidays always make you think about times past; instead of ignoring these memories, share them. Memories that were made in love can NEVER be taken away from you.


Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life. The death of your loved one creates opportunity for taking inventory of your life - past, present, and future. The combination of a holiday and a loss naturally results in looking inward and assesing your individual situation; define the positive things in life that surround you.


Express your faith; during the holidays you may fine a renewed sense of faith or discover a new set of beliefs. Associate with those who understand and respect your need to talk about these.




Thanksgiving


How we grievers long on the special days
to have our loved ones acknowledged.
Their abscence. Their presence.
To have others listen as we share our memories of them.
To Listen to others share their memories.



Sad-glad sharing is Thanksgiving


Place a horn of plenty on your Thanksgiving table. Ask family members to fill the horn with objects representing your loved one.


Fix mashed potatoes instead of sweet potatoes for your Thanksgiving meal.


Have potluck. Eat out. Ask someone new to share your meal. Form a new family.


Give thanks for three ways in which your loved one, loved you best.


Give thanks for whatever relief you feel at your loved one's passing on to Heaven.


Give thanks for your ability to produce beauty out of the ashes of your life.




Christmas


Seasonal music plays...cards are sent and received...
"cozy" family commericals fill the television screen.
It intrudes on you when you least feel like celebrating.
The whole season reminds you of who is missing. IT HURTS!



Christmas may be toughest of the toughest days of the year for three reason:

1. It lasts so long
2. It emphasizes tradition
3. It raises impossible expectations


Christmas calls forth and intensifies all the feelings called forth by all our special days, yet on no other day--unless we strip ourselves--do we feel so obligated to get through our feelings without feeling them.


STOP YOURSELF! You can get through thie pain even of CHRISTMAS DAY!


Count on having an imperfect Christmas


Buy a beautiful Christmas candle and light it each day through December as a symbolic reminder of your loved one.


Hang up a stocking on Christmas Eve and suggest that family members fill it with notes for their loved one.


Plan shopping trips ahead of time or try creative alternatives: shop at a different set of stores; go earlier in the day before bumping into all those "MERRY" shoppers; shop by mail; give possessions of the lovd ones as a gift; give money or gift cerificates this year.


Pamper yourself--buy yourself a present and wrap it.


Choose a different time of day for opening gifts.


Invite the children to decorate a tree outdoors for the birds.


Make luminaries in honor of your person's memory.


If the traditional dinner is going to be difficult, eat at a different time or go out to eat.


Get active making cards for friends. Make a special one in memory of your loved one and leave it under the tree, on the mantle, next to the Menorah, or in a stocking.


Make a special family wreath together to take to the grave. Take another wreath to place on an unremembered grave of someone unknow to you.


Start a jigsaw puzzle early in the month. See if you can finish it by the end of the month. This a great time for the whole family to open up and talk about feelings, memories, etc.




It Feels Good To Give Purpose To Your Pain On Christmas:


Decide to do one special thing for someone else in December.


Contribute to your favorite charity in memory of your loved one.


Buy a living tree to plant in your yard.


Buy a poinsettia for the sanctuary of your church in memory of your loved one.


Invite each member of your family to choose one of their prized possessions, wrap it, and give it to someone in need.


Be thoughtful of yourself on ALL the Christmases of your grief.




New Year's


The fear of yet another round of three hundred and sixty-five days!
But don't confuse letting go of your grief with letting go of your loved.
Remebered joys are never past.



Have a candlelighting ceremoney on New's Year's Eve: a "BLUE" candle for past joys, a "RED" candle for present courage, a "YELLOW" candle for hope for the future.

Toast five constants in your life.

At New Year's dinner, give a wallet-size folder of snapshots of your loved one to each person present.

Write three sentences about the New Year in which you use the word "NEW" in an exciting way.

Make a list of attainable personal goals for the New Year.




Easter


Have Easter many times throughout the season of the year.
To forgive your loved one for dying.
To Bless them on their way,
and to Bless "YOURSELF" On Your Way Without Them.



Write an Easter note from your loved one to you. What does he or she want you to know?

Take a blanket and a thermos of coffee, climb a hill on Easter morning, and watch the sun rise.

Stand in your favorite outdoor spot and decide to trust the growth procss -- in nature and in you.

Have a tree-planting ceremony in memory of your loved one on which friends and family members mention the qualities of you loved one that live on in them.

Buy an Easter lily for your church sanctuary in memory of your loved one.




Genteral Suggestions For All Days


Don't overextend yourself;
avoid isolating yourself,
but be sure to recognize the need to have special time for yourself;
merely keeping busy won't distract your from your greif,
but may actually increase stress and postpone the need to talk out thoughts and feelings.



Allow yourself to have fun, to laugh, and to enjoy things around you. This not inappropriate or disrespectful. There will be times of sadness and also some times of joy. The greatest honor you can give your loved one is to live a good life.

Take care of yourself: Make time for relaxing; eat healthy foods; exercise; keep to your rountine as much as possible; get plenty of sleep.

Do what you can do to control your out-of-controlness; Look at a sun-red sky. Meditate. Listen to Mendelssohn. Go Bowling. See an old movie with an old friend. Do whatever you used to like to do. Get yourself back. What do you believe in? What are you good at? YOU'VE LOST YOUR LOVED ONE; DON'T LOSE YOURSELF, TOO.

Remember that grief is feeling your feelings and depression is NOT feeling your feeling!

Grief comes as a result of giving and receiving love. Don't let anyone take your grief away; love yourself; be patient with youself; allow yoruself to be surrounded by loving, caring people.

Concentrate on the fact that while we don't have our loves anymore, we did have them. Our habit is to say, "I miss the way my loved one bounded in from school each day." But as time passes we can change that to, "I smile remembering the way my loved one bounded in from school each day."

If you keep your grief inside you, you keep it inside you. If you let your grief out, you let it out and away. The best thing you can do to get through your saddest days is to FEEL YOUR SADNESS!