SAN DIEGO, December 23, 2014 — Inherent in the holiday season is an abundance of societal expectations for experiencing happiness and joy.
For those who are grief-stricken due to the loss of a loved one, feeling happy may not be realistic.
Holiday celebrations with family and friends that would previously have been anticipated with excitement may now be anticipated in a negative way, or possibly even avoided for fear of overwhelming negative emotions.
Emotional triggers from past holiday seasons could evoke painful memories as they bring to mind happy moments which cannot be shared today.
Feelings of loss, sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and despair may become overwhelming and indicative of depression due to the impact of grief.
According to Harvard Medical School’s Coping with Grief and Loss, “2.4 million men, women, and children die in the United States each year” due to accidents, illnesses, diseases—many of which are sudden and unexpected.
Loss is a necessary though painful part of the human experience. Loved ones come and go throughout the entirety of our lives.
In spite of the best advanced holiday planning for gatherings and events, life will and does happen. There is simply no convenient time to lose a loved one.
The holiday season, however, is an ideal opportunity to engage in the process of healing from the loss of a loved one.
Beginning with the painful realization of the loss itself, acceptance is the stepping-stone which starts off the pathway to the healing process.
Being honest with family and friends about feelings of grief and despair will assist them in understanding what they might do to help.
By choosing to move forward with participating in the events of the holiday season, and walking through the emotions evoked by them, there is every opportunity for the entire family to create new traditions.
Actively remembering the loved one who has passed can be a cornerstone of future celebrations.
Vitas Innovative Hospice Care offers suggestions to help families cope with the holidays at a time of loss:
-Announce beforehand that someone else will carve the holiday turkey or roast.
-Create a memory box with family photos, notes, drawings from family children, and other loving tokens. It could be viewed each year as one of the new holiday traditions.
-Make a decorative quilt commemorating the loved one who has died.
-Light a candle in honor of the absent loved one and have their memory shine.
-Visit the cemetery and decorate the burial site with holiday decorations.
-Have a moment of silence during a holiday toast in honor and memory of the loved one.
Remembering those who have passed away will be a positive, shared holiday experience.
Recovering from the loss of a loved one is a unique process for everyone, with a time table that will vary from one person to another.
The grief process is a series of ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and trial and error—all laced with a variety of emotions.
Healing takes time, and can be a lifelong journey of love, loss, acceptance, and recovery.
Honoring the passage of a loved one, especially during the holiday season, can become a meaningful celebration of their life, and help to move the entire family past the impact of individual grief and loss.
Integrating a healthy reality of loss into the everyday fabric of life is an ideal way of keeping all the love that was shared and experienced fully alive and forever at heart.
From I Corinthians 13:
“Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal… faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities” columnist since 2011, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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