by Michelle Herberger
The clock has “fallen” back. The daylight hours are dwindling away and sooner than one would like to imagine, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas will be upon us – the seasons of gratitude, promise, light and hope, of warmth, love and excitement. For those grieving the death of a loved one, this time of year can be a painful reminder of the empty space at the table; of the hole in the family garment. The light of the season may not be as bright as in the past. The air may be a little more cutting than in the past; our home, our heart more empty than in the past.
A loved one has died. It is important to make the distinction that one has not ‘lost’ this significant person. The person had died. The loved one will always be in the heart and that love will never be lost.
So how does one make it through the ‘dark days’ of winter and this impending holiday season? Darcie Sims, a well-known psychotherapist, grief management specialist and bereaved parent, offers these suggestions:
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. Know that hardly anyone is as happy as you think they might be. Do what you can and let it be enough.
BE REALISTIC. It will hurt, but don’t try to block bad moments. Let them come, deal with them and let them go.
Be kind and gentle to self. Figure out what you should do and balance it with what you are capable of doing. Then compromise. Forgive yourself for living.
Plan ahead. Make lists. Prioritize. Decide what is really important to you. And don’t try to buy away your grief.
Listen to self. Become aware of your needs and share them.
Understand. As you unpack the decorations, the heartache will come and so will the warm memories. Give yourself the gift of healing tears.
Change something. Everything has already changed so don’t be afraid to change some traditions – keep some traditions. What doesn’t feel right can be stopped. Choose what is comfortable.
Don’t use the “ought” word and ask for help when you need it.
WORK AT LIFTING DEPRESSION. Take responsibility for yourself and take care of your body.
SET A PLACE AT THE TABLE / HANG A STOCKING / LIGHT A CANDLE. Do this in celebration of the life and love shared, not in memory of a death.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE GIFTS OF YOUR LOVED ONE’S LIFE. Voice these gifts in the prayer before Thanksgiving meal. At Christmas, write them on small pieces of paper and place in a gift wrapped box, or in a stocking, as a reminder that we still have the gifts even though the giver has died.
LIVE THROUGH THE HURT so that joy can return to your heart.