The Gift of Grief
It doesn’t matter if you’ve lost a loved one this year or twenty-five years ago, the holidays only intensifies the grief. My sister, Gloria and I loved this time of year, our little Charlie Brown tree was always fully decorated by the end of Thanksgiving dinner, and shopping trips to the Christiana Mall were great times to bond.
She was killed in a car accident in 1992, at the age of 29, yet every year I put the last gift I ever gave her under the tree as well as hang a personalized Dove ornament in her memory. The grief and sadness of her loss hits hard and early in December, well before the 25th.
Christmas was also my grandmother’s favorite holiday, she too is deceased, but being blessed with a wonderful husband and two fantastic sons is what keeps me from crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head until after the new year.
If you are also dealing with grief and depression during the holidays, or know someone who is, here are a few tips to help cope with the gift of grief.
For the bereaved
Most importantly, take care of yourself during this difficult time, making yourself a priority: allow yourself an adequate sleep schedule and nutritious meals. ASK FOR HELP! Let friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, your church community, etc. know that you welcome meals, help with childcare, someone to run errands, etc.
For those recently bereaved, give yourself permission to scale back or even opt out of your usual holiday activities.
If some time has passed since your loss, consider what traditions you want to continue this year, which you want to adopt or stop altogether. It’s not necessary to do things just because you always have nor is it necessary to abandon traditions that are meaningful to you.
Check in with yourself emotionally.
Ask: Do I feel selfish because I want to be alone? Do I feel guilty if I‘m grumpy with others or don’t want to do what others want me to do? Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Don’t ignore the sadness. Let the tears come.
Actively remember your loved one.
There are many ways to memorialize your loved one: visit special places, look at pictures, write, sing a special song, make a donation to a favorite charity or cause, take time to share fond memories with others, purchase a new holiday ornament or other memorabilia each year.
For support persons
Small acts of love and kindness go a long way.
Send a card or note; bring gifts of food, especially fruits and vegetables and no-prep meals; offer to watch the children; take the pet dog for a walk, offer to pick up items during your grocery trip, etc. Don’t wait to be asked, just do it and continue doing so long after the loss.
Check in with your friend or loved one in the days, weeks and months following their loss. Don’t be afraid to ask how they are doing. Accept where they are in the grief process without pressure to think or feel differently. Don’t take it personally if they decline invitations or aren’t reaching out to you.
Be there, don’t avoid.
In the loss, it’s not unusual for others to shy away from the bereaved, often out of discomfort or fear or not knowing what to say. For those grieving, having others listen and “just be” with them as they grieve is more important than hearing the “right” words (there are none).
‘Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”– Earl Grollman