I think MK has been signing online and reading things again, after days of complaining about her affection for the nest, she overwhelmed me with being a lovebug all day, and then went back and slept in it. So, we are evening out both our needs for companionship and soft things.
It’s the official start of the Holiday season and for some of us, this can also be an emotionally difficult time as we deal with grief, whether it be new or old, and the emphasis on gathering together as families. It is, indescribably hard to be a part of such a gathering when your awareness is on the “empty chair.”
The following is a combination of suggestions provided from GriefNet.org, Beacon Hospice and the Book of Common Helps. These suggestions will not “cure” grief or help someone to “get over it,” but they will allow you to make room for grief and have an easier time this Holiday season.
1. There is no right or wrong way to handle the day, just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some people may want to do things as they have always been done and some may need to change traditions.
2. Talk about what it means and how it feels to be gathering together without the person. Find out from each other what each person needs and make changes where you can, even if just to provide moments of relief, that take into account each family member’s needs.
3. Be aware of other people’s feelings and be respectful of them. Children, people distant from your loss may not be able to participate emotionally in the grief, for them it is a joyful day, find a way – before the day – that you can remind yourself to participate in their joy as well.
4. Be careful of “shoulds.” There is nothing you “should” be doing. If something feels like it would be too much to be a part of or overwhelm you, respect your intuition and make changes to lessen your involvement. Don’t hide, but don’t burden yourself with unrealistic expectations.
5. Baking, cooking, cleaning –can all get out of control and be overwhelming even when grief is not present. If the chores relax you, by all means do them. If not, make this the year of no dishes and go out or order food prepared.
6. Ask for help in decorating, setting up trees, or otherwise preparing for the season. Don’t forgo how you normally prepared for things, but change the way you do it or the amount of ornaments displayed.
7. Remember that the way you do things this year does not have to be the way it will be done next year. Give yourself room to breathe and change.
8. The holidays, even for those who are not grieving, are emotionally, physically and psychologically draining. Get enough rest, eat well, avoid alcohol, sugar, caffeine and recreational drugs. All of these impair your body and minds ability to rest properly and to adequately respond to emotional situations.
9. When someone wishes you “Happy Holidays!” and you don’t know what to say, say “Best Wishes to You!” or “What are your plans?” –take the focus off you, you don’t have to explain your situation to everyone.
10. Do things at different times and in different places. If dinner was always at your house, have it somewhere else. If you always went to Mass at 8, go to the 11 o’clock service. Don’t avoid doing your normal rituals, but change how they happen.
11. Cut back on the holiday card sending. Everyone will understand.
12. Do something for someone else, go volunteer.
13. Give a gift or donate in the name of your loved one.
14. Let people know that this time of year is difficult for you. Not everyone can or will be supportive and some people may say things that are not appropriate, but most people will surprise you with their caring support.
15. Respect that this time of year may bring up feelings of sadness and loss that you thought long “taken care of.” It is natural. Let it be.
16. Remember that the anticipation is always worse then what the holiday will actually be and feel like to you.
Another thing you can try, before going to your dinner or whatever you do to celebrate the holidays, is to take a moment and set and empty chair before you. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Play music you love, light a candle, have some tea and sit across from the chair. Imagine your loved one in that chair and talk to them about how you miss them, and how it feels to be going through the holidays without them. Don’t be surprised if you wind up expressing a little anger with them. Being angry with someone you loved is nothing bad. But doing this will help you get some of your feelings “out in the air” and help you handle the holiday. When the timer goes off, say goodbye and tell them you love them. Clean up the area and go enjoy your Holiday.