Grief & the Holidays: Caring for You

Grief HolidaysI was going to start this article explaining why it was being written. Something like, “For most of us, throughout our lives, we anticipate the arrival of the holidays with joy and excitement. The frenzy of parties and shopping, of baking, decorating and spending time with family- but for the griever, this excitement is replaced with a sense of dread.”

But you know this already.

Most people I speak with say, “I wish we could just fast forward to January 2” and view the holidays as no longer something to look forward to, but a looming date on the calendar that is filled with fear and despair.

Assuming we don’t have a time machine or the ability to hibernate through a tough winter season, how do we get through this very difficult time of year?

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Grief in the Age of Gratitude.

grief gratitude

Gratitude.

Such a simple idea… slowing down, taking stock of our lives, making the choice to focus on the good we have, and spending less time searching and yearning for what we don’t. Pausing in nature, taking more time with our kids, realizing that we ALREADY have everything we need…to me, the idea of finding gratitude in everyday life was such a simple but game changing goal.

And then suddenly, it was everywhere. In hashtags, and mommy blogs, in commercials, in the stores, suddenly everyone was being told: be thankful for what you have (and what they don’t say: be thankful for what you have, no matter what that is).

Still sounds okay, right? What could be wrong with encouraging this shift in so many people’s way of thinking?
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Grief Support: “I Want You to Know…”

shutterstock_138709043One of the best things about participating in a grief support group is the relief that comes at the realization that, finally, “I’m not alone”. There are others who can relate and who understand.

Knowing that you’re not “crazy”, and that other people have shared the same thoughts, and acted in similar ways. This safe haven where everyone else nods in agreement as you tell your story–what’s happened, where you are now, and as you wonder, what comes next?

With the right group and the right facilitator a grief support group can be one of the safest and most comfortable places to be.

And while I spend so much of my time encouraging people to participate in a group for just that reason there’s a second part of this that’s all very important to ask – what happens when we leave the cozy space of the group?

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Grieving in the Second Year After a Loss

Grieving

There is a pretty well-accepted theory on grieving that the first year is the hardest. The loss is so new, the first months can be spent in a blur of shock and disbelief.

This can be especially true for a sudden loss, but can surprise people when they are in “shock” even after a loved one has died following a long and drawn out illness.

I’ve said it many times: nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can prepare us for the finality of death.

Navigating that first year, through anniversaries, birthdays and holidays can feel endless. But the assumption for most is that as long as they can get through that, it should be smoother sailing in the days ahead.

And then year 2 happens.

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Caregiver No More

life after caregivingWe are born selfish. The only thing that matters to us in our earliest days is being fed, sleeping when we need it, and being comforted when we want it.

When we’re a little older, and we begin walking and talking and interacting with others, some of this starts to change. We’re expected to be patient, to share with friends, and to use our manners.

As time passes, expectations grow. Hold the door for others before you walk in. Don’t eat until everyone has been served. We are taught that others’ needs come before our own.

With maturity, in marriage and with parenting, the sacrifices continue. How quickly we go from “what do you want to be when you grow up?” to learning how to forfeit our interests for the sake of others. It seems that to be a “good” adult we must recognize that what we want isn’t always the primary concern.

Of course there’s a need for this. To be part of a society and to get along with others, we do need to learn some of these “rules” of benevolence.

But, oh, how quickly we lose the balance. And nothing is a greater example of this than the caregiver.

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