LEAVING YOUR LOVED ONE IN 2015: When Time Marches On

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The start of a new year reminds us all that time is passing. Sometimes it seems to go so quickly and other times life can be painstakingly slow. Taking some time to consider how moving into the next year affects your grief could help your healing process. You might have many realizations about your loss hit you at various times over the next few days to weeks. This is a new year, a year that will not include your deceased loved one. You’ll hear yourself say phrases like, “She died last year,” or, “He died in 2015,” and you’ll be struck by how far away you feel from the days they lived and the day they died.  In a sense, your loved one may feel more distant, unreachable. Consider this:

  • Allow yourself to acknowledge the start of the new year as part of your grief. Think about what the new year means for you and your loss. Let yourself have whatever thoughts come and feel whatever feelings stir.
  • You may wrestle with mixed emotions about the end of 2015. Perhaps you feel relieved to be ending 2015 but at the same time feel disloyal, as though you’re leaving your deceased loved one behind or being forced to let go of them too soon.
  • The end of 2015 might feel like yet another loss and could exacerbate your grief symptoms for a short time. Take extra good care of yourself now and at all times while grieving.
  • Maybe you’re ready to leave 2015 in the dust. Perhaps you’ve been eager to start a new year, a fresh beginning with the hopes of feeling better with the turn of the calendar.

We have to remember one thing. There’s nothing easy about going through grief and there is no magic way to healing. The only way, the only healthy way, to get to and through the New Year is to think about it. And feel about it. Today. Because tomorrow you will do it again, for tomorrow. And time will pass that way for a while, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, eventually easing your pain and anguish of losing your loved one. Thanks to time, you’ll been able to learn how to still love them in the next year while they remain in your past. Peaceful New Year.

 

 

 

Ho-Ho Humbug 

  

When is all this holiday cheer going to end? I’m so sick of the lights, the tinsel, make it stop! Everyone is so merry and bright and it’s grating on my every nerve! If I hear one more clang of that dinging bell in front of the grocery store I will lose it!
Other people have no idea what I’m going through. They’re all so holly and jolly and I all I want to do stay in bed until January 2nd. The lump in my throat won’t go away and even the thought of eggnog makes my sick stomach sicker. Every Christmas carol I hear sends me into a fit of tears. Don’t they get it? Don’t they know? None of this stuff matters, not now and not ever. 

 After losing my love I couldn’t care less about presents and snow and lights and the glow. The best part of celebrating was about being with them and this season without them feels empty and wrong. Will I ever feel better again? Will I ever have that Christmas cheer back in my heart? It’s almost too unbearable to take. That’s why I’m crawling back under my covers, putting earplugs in, only to emerge on January 2nd, 2016 when things can go back to “normal”, whatever that is. Have a very

un-Merry Christmas and hurry-up New Year!!! 

Getting Grieving Kids Through the Holidays

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Children who are grieving have their own difficulties getting through the holidays but the adults in their lives can help make it easier on them. Their little brains are trying to understand what’s happened.  Death is just as confusing to them as it is to us as adults.  Here are just some ideas to consider as you help a little one through.

  • Set limits.  Children can easily get tired during the holidays, even more so if going through grief.   Be sure to schedule in rest, utilize down time and have your child get plenty of sleep.
  • Allow your child to feel however they choose throughout the holidays.  Don’t expect them to always be cheerful when they’re going through loss.
  • Unless your tears and emotions are completely unmanageable, try not to hide your own sorrow or feelings of grief from children, even if it is a holiday or a special occasion.  It is okay for children to understand what the appropriate response is when we lose someone we love.  If they are 5 years old, they’ll understand that sometimes we cry when we’re sad.  A 10 year old child might cry with you for a minute, feeling connected in that shared emotion.  If they are 15, they might roll their eyes and pretend they’re annoyed that you can’t control your emotions all the while secretly feeling validated and reassured that they aren’t the only one thinking about their loved one.
  • By acknowledging a child’s loss and grief feelings, you give them the reassurance that grief is normal and that there is nothing wrong with them. Validating their thoughts and feelings means you might have to admit you’re sad, that you miss that person too.
  • Keep an atmosphere that is open for them to ask questions or talk about the deceased.  By doing this you can actually enhance your connection with that child and strengthen the bond between you.
  • Tradition.  Consider keeping some of the same holiday traditions but don’t be afraid to start new ones.  Talk to the kids to get their thoughts on keeping some old and trying some new.  Traditions can be a source of comfort but some may seem too unbearable to go through.  A new tradition may help keep your child interested and engaged during this time of the year.
  • Find a way to memorialize your child’s loved one.  It may be helpful to incorporate the deceased into a special ritual or activity.  Even something as simple as putting together a collage or scrapbook of past holidays with the deceased or decorating ornaments in their loved ones name can make the loss easier to bear.

Keeping these tips in mind during the holiday season and even throughout the year can help kids stay focused on the healthy road to healing.  Reinforcing the reasons we do have for celebrating can always help put a positive spin on most any occasion.  Peace.

 

Alcohol and Grief – A Bad Idea

 

If you’ve recently suffered the loss of a loved one it may be tempting to drown your sorrows in a bottle of alcohol. Hanging out with your friends Jim, Jack and Jose may initially seem like a good way to escape your sadness but it’s one of the worst things you can do for yourself.  Having a toast in the name of your loved one might sound like a nice idea but it could spiral into unhealthy coping very quickly.  Here’s why using alcohol while going through grief is a bad idea:

  1. Alcohol is a depressant.  Depression is a normal part of the grieving process. By adding a depressant to an already depressing situation, you will eventually only feel more depressed.
  2. Alcohol can initially seem to help you escape your pain but drinking might suppress your feelings, ultimately prolonging your journey through grief.
  3. Alcohol may numb your pain in the short term but the intensity of the grief process will probably increase as time goes on. And because alcohol is addicting and tolerance develops, you may end up drinking more and more of it to try and escape.
  4. By drinking in an effort to avoid the pain of loss, you may end up developing something very difficult to overcome in other ways- an addiction to alcohol.
  5. Alcohol weakens the body’s immune system. The amount of stress associated with the death of a loved one can also lower our ability to stay physically healthy and well. We do ourselves no favors by adding alcohol to our grief process.

It’s hard to know the “right” way to maneuver through the jungle of grief emotions. Keep in mind there really is no one right way to do it.  Focus on what’s healthy and helpful. Steer clear from alcohol, drugs and other unhealthy and harmful ways of coping with your pain. Seek the guidance of a grief counselor if you need help determining the best way for you to get through this difficult time.

 

How To Help a Grieving Friend Through the Holidays

Do you know someone who has lost a loved one?  Has a friend of yours suffered the death of an important person?  Do you feel unsure of what to say or what to do to make it better for them during this season of holiday cheer?  Here are some tips on how to support your friend through this hard time of the year:

  1. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your friend’s loss in front of them. By mentioning their loved one’s name, you let your friend know that you are thinking of that person too and that you recognize the difficult time they’re having.
  2. Don’t assume that your grieving friend wants to be left alone or removed from party invitation lists just because they’ve had a loss. Give them the option of choosing how much or how little they would like to participate in the holidays. Ask them what you can do to make the holidays easier for them.
  3. Offer to help your friend with decorating, holiday baking, shopping or gift wrapping. Grief is an energy zapper and getting holiday tasks complete may seem insurmountable when living with loss.
  4. If you’re having a party and are inviting someone who is particularly sad this season, consider having a quiet, private area where that person can step away from the crowd to collect their thoughts and feelings.
  5. Try to encourage your friend to take care of themselves. Discourage alcohol and drug use. “Having a toast in memory of the deceased” could quickly spiral into poor coping and unhealthy habits.
  6. Understand that there are no magic words to “fix” someone’s grief. When your friend gets upset in front of you, it’s okay if you don’t know what to say to them. Sometimes just sitting beside someone or offering a hug is what’s best.

Sometimes the holidays can be particularly difficult for anyone who has had a loss, regardless of how long ago their loved one died.  Certain songs, foods and traditions can trigger memories that could send anyone into a brief moment of grief emotion.  Sitting through those moments, acknowledging the thoughts and the feelings endured and then refocusing on the current reasons for celebration may help keep a positive atmosphere through the season.

 

San Bernardino Sorrow – What It Has To Do With You

 

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Newton, Connecticut.  Virginia Tech.  PARIS.  And now San Bernardino?  Why do people have to endure such horrific traumas?

Do you understand the sorrow felt by the family of those innocent lives lost in San Bernardino, California?  Do you know more fully the grief of those so unexpectedly bereaved by the violent attack on December 2, 2015?  If you have recently experienced the death of a close loved one, you already cannot seem to swallow the lump in your throat or get over the stomach ache you’ve had for days and now your sadness seems completely engulfing.  You consider the gravity of the horrific trauma suffered from such senseless violence.  Your heart remains aware of your own incomprehensible loss while at the same time it breaks for what you know will be the most excruciatingly painful, emotional experience those affected by the shootings will ever endure.  How can life seem so unfair and unbearable?  How can you possibly recover from this?  How can you even endure it?

Consider these ideas to feel better:

  1. Allow yourself to acknowledge any thoughts or feelings you may have about your loss or a recent trauma such as San Bernardino.   Consider how your loss may be different or similar to the national or international tragedy. Refrain from judging yourself or critiquing whether something is right or wrong, good or bad. Just think and feel.
  2. Consider that engaging in number 1 above will only help you move forward in your grief process. As your brain continues to process your own personal loss, you may facilitate further progress by being open to allowing your thoughts and feelings free flow.
  3. Think about limiting purposeful exposure to media about these tragedies and only checking in for updates once or twice a day. Most likely you’re well aware of enough details and will not miss much if you restrict your news updates. The grief of your own loss and the intense heart-wrenching sorrow you feel for those who are probably hundreds of miles away is enough to endure.
  4. Some people feel it’s important to help those affected by recent national disasters or crises, traumas and tragedies. While physically going to directly assist after something like San Bernardino is unrealistic for most people, sending money or other kinds of assistance may help you feel less hopeless and defeated.
  5. As a general fall-back plan, you can never go wrong with doing something nurturing, caring or indulgent for yourself. Let yourself sleep in, treat yourself to a massage, soak in a bubble bath, eat the Hagen Das. Take a yoga class, meditate, call a friend and talk, go for a walk. Taking care of you is never the wrong answer.

If you’re in the process of healing from a recent loss, the shooting in San Bernardino may always be a reminder of the time in your life when you endured your own personal struggle through grief.  The association may not always feel positive but there is something powerful and connected about having personal awareness and knowledge of the shared and very human experience of grief.

IT’S TOO PAINFUL! MAKE IT STOP!

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Don’t be afraid of your own grief.

You know when you’re about to get hit with a big ol’ wave of grief.  It totally sucks.  That dreadful knot in your stomach.  That sick, choking feeling in your throat.   Your face feels hot and your body starts to go numb from the toes up.  And then it hits.  You’re overwhelmed with emotions;  anger, rage, fear and sadness sweep through you.  The tears blur your eyes as you try to prevent them from falling.  Your muscles clench and you wish you could do something to stop it completely.

There is a way to stop it.  It’s not an easy way, but there is one way to make it end, to make yourself feel happy and satisfied with your life again.  Here are some things to consider while you maneuver through this painful journey:

  1. Feel the feelings. It sounds super scary, but think about allowing yourself to feel your emotions rather than always stuffing them away. The pain we feel after someone dies is natural and avoiding our feelings will only prolong the grieving process.
  2. Consider finding time to purposely bring on some grief emotions. Again, it sounds counter intuitive because you prefer to avoid emotional pain, but bringing on a good cry might actually expedite the grief process.
  3. Keep bringing up your loved one’s name in conversations with others. By talking about them and how they’ve left a mark on your life, you keep their memory as part of your present life. Learning how to preserve that memory while letting go of the pain is partly why this grief journey is a long one.
  4. Be sure to not be impatient with yourself or put any kind of time limit on how long you think it should take before you feel better. Being concerned with the length of time this is taking prevents you from being in the present moment, possibly missing the chance to feel some of the necessary feelings of grief.
  5. Understand that grieving takes a lot of energy and mental attention too. When you find yourself feeling tired or notice you can’t seem to focus for long periods of time, recognize that your loss could be a factor. Take naps and say no to overextending yourself while your’re trying to heal.

Your instinct will tell you to run fast and far from your feelings, especially the painful ones, but your best bet is to turn around and face your feelings.  They’ll eventually catch up with you anyway.