Author Topic: Holiday Tips/Ideas/Articles  (Read 19563 times)

Terry

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Holiday Tips/Ideas/Articles
« on: October 04, 2011, 12:16:02 PM »
There are many here that are going to be facing their first holiday season without their loved one. There is help for all and please feel free to post your *own* ideas and tips from holidays past. And, if you are further along on your journey, please share what has helped you.

It's so important to remember that you are not alone. There are many who walk *with* you and are just as confused and frightened, as there is nothing more difficult than dealing with all of those *firsts* without your loved one.

If you find an article that you feel could benefit others here, please post it. If you have an idea, post it! If you're already anticipating lack of family support and are not sure how to handle this, post it here.

Remember, this is *Your* grief and you own your feelings. You can participate in the holiday festivities and then you can choose not to. It is up to you.

Post any concerns here. Someone will help you. We care about each and everyone of you, very much!

Love,
Terry
« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 11:18:33 AM by Terry »
"One thing I've learned on this journey (it's been a year and a few days since my husband, Tom, died of cancer), is that in the beginning, there is a lot of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back shuffle." - RobinBlue - Spouse Loss

Terry

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First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2011, 12:20:50 PM »
"The First Christmas After a Death" --Susan Dunn

1. When we grieve we have no energy.

Decisions are hard to make, the smallest chore seems monumental, ordinarily joyous things are not, things that used to bother you don’t bother you any more, you don’t defend yourself well, to pretend takes too much effort, and you need lots of rest.

“She is seeking the solace of sleep,” my sister would tell people who called.

Nothing matters. The oven goes out, dinner has to be canceled and you have to reconvene in a restaurant. You wonder why something like that would upset the others so much.

2. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Do what you know you should do. Think of a time when it mattered, if necessary – supplements, eating right, rest, talking to someone, keeping your obligations manageable, getting exercise.

Your immune system will be run down. Outsource it. Therapy and support groups bolster your immune system.

3. You can cancel Christmas if you want to.

Sleep, take a walk, or study something intellectual to get your mind off emotional things.

4. You can also change the venue.

One woman took her grown kids downtown to a hotel and they celebrated there.

5. People want to help you and they don’t know how.

Nothing will really help. You just want them back. But let others “do something”. If they ask and you can’t think of anything, ask them to “do something”. They’ll figure it out. Everyone knows houses must be cleaned, dogs walked, groceries bought, and meals prepared.

6. Alcohol doesn’t help anything.

7. Explain what you need.

Say, “If I get up and leave the table, just let me go. I’ll be OK. I’ll come back when I’m ready.”

8. You might get some relief helping others – serving dinner to the homeless, or buying gifts for a family in need.

Then again you might not, but at least you’ll have wasted some time.

9. What will you do with their Christmas stocking?

One woman set out her husband’s Christmas stocking with a journal beside it for visitors to write in it. Another woman slept with her daughter’s stocking under her pillow.

10. Avoid malls.

You see things you would buy for the one who is gone, you see the happy couples when you are no longer a couple, you see the cherubic face of a little boy who looks like the one you lost.

You hear the music. Even a little is too much. Remember you can turn the radio and television off.

In the words of a caring friend of mine, “Have a Christmas.” You may be hard put to supply the adjective, and that’s okay. If you choose to observe the day, “Have a Christmas,” and understand that those who slip and tell you, “Well, I hope you have a Merry Christmas,” don’t know what they’re saying.

The “firsts” are difficult – the first anniversary, the first birthday, the first Valentine’s Day, the first fall, summer, spring and winter.

“How odd,” you may think, when the first snow falls in the first winter after, or when the first daffodil blooms in the first spring after. “How odd that’s the same when the most important things are not.”

Prescriptions and predictions are annoying. Time does heal many people and it becomes less raw with time; however, if that time does come, it comes at its own pace. Be forgiving of yourself and others, and, well, have a Christmas. Or don’t. One way or another that particular day will pass and you will have survived your first Christmas without them.

Together our group had a holiday memorial to our loved ones, lighting the 4 candles in the Advent wreath. No one knows who wrote the prayer, but here it is:

A HOLIDAY MEMORIAL FOR [YOUR LOVED ONE]

As we light these 4 candles in honor of you, we light one for our grief, one for our courage, one for our memories, and one for our love.

This candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

This candle represents our courage – to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.

This candle is in your memory – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us.

This candle is the light of love. As we enter this holiday season day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. We love you.

And then you can say their name.
"One thing I've learned on this journey (it's been a year and a few days since my husband, Tom, died of cancer), is that in the beginning, there is a lot of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back shuffle." - RobinBlue - Spouse Loss

DaveB

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Re: HolidayTips/Ideas
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2011, 08:43:06 PM »
Don't know what to do about the holidays this year. Part of me aches to see everyone again, yet I have distanced myself from them recently. I think what I really need to do is forewarn them that I'm still kind of a wreck before I head over there. I don't want anyone to be surprised when they see how bad off emotionally I still am (I feel like I am, anyway).

Judy's family, and in particular her three sisters, really welcomed me as part of their family when Judy introduced me to them years ago (1982). This was before we were married...I was still just their baby sister's boyfriend! I still vividly remember that first Thanksgiving. Her sisters have similar sounding names, and I thought I would never be able to figure out who was who! What great memories I have of that time. I know they still love me, and would do anything to help me, but I have been keeping my distance. Why? I don' think I understand why myself.

The Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays are troubling for me because I took Judy to the hospital for the last time just before Thanksgiving last year, and she passed away in the hospital on Dec. 3rd. I did go to Christmas celebration last year at one of Judy's sisters house, but I was mostly numb. I guess I'm afraid I'll be overcome and break down or something. This all has really been consuming me lately...

oneangel

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Re: HolidayTips/Ideas
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2011, 09:54:56 PM »
I know exactly how you feel DaveB. When my husband passed away Nov.2009, the holidays were quite difficult for me and my children. The most difficult thing is that I don't have any family myself, all I have is my husband's family, and although they have taken me in as their own, I still to this day, since his passing, don't feel like I belong there anymore. We visit ALL of the time, my kids love them dearly, but I just have this feeling in me that I can't shake.

As for tips, every holiday, whether it be birthdays, Easter, or whatever, my kids and I bring a sweet treat to the cemetery to share with my husband, their father. We usually bring a chocolate bar (Kit Kat works really well), and break off a piece for each one of us, and then eat an extra piece for their dad. It makes them feel like they are still celebrating with him. They also still make holiday cards and stick them up at the mausoleum. The holiday is not over until they have celebrated at the mausoleum with him.

Hope this helps!

gaberax

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Re: HolidayTips/Ideas
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2011, 06:03:44 AM »
Don't know what to do about the holidays this year. Part of me aches to see everyone again, yet I have distanced myself from them recently. I think what I really need to do is forewarn them that I'm still kind of a wreck before I head over there. I don't want anyone to be surprised when they see how bad off emotionally I still am (I feel like I am, anyway).


DaveB, I suggest you write what is called a grief letter.  Here is the one I wrote and have been handing out to my family, friends, supervisor at work and co-workers.  It may help you format your own letter.  Good luck to you and hang in there.


September 15, 2011


As you know I suffered a tremendous loss when Denise recently passed away.  Her passing has rocked my world to the core.  We shared everything.  She was the center of my world and I continue to miss her terribly.

Now I find that I am going through the grieving process.  It has been a hard journey so far and while I am told it will get easier, I anticipate I will never be “over it”…through it maybe but never over it.   I believe at some future point I will learn to have accepted it.  I will always love her, now and forever, and will always treasure the love she gave me.

It had occurred to me, and has been confirmed by some of the information I have gathered at the grief counseling meetings I have attended, that I am not only grieving for the loss of Denise but all of the myriad of things associated with losing her.  Her homemade blueberry pies, the way she spooned me in bed, her sitting beside me in the truck, her daily phone call…hundreds and hundreds of things associated with the life we shared that I will have to absorb, grieve over and let go. 

I am also grieving for myself.  I defined myself by the relationship we shared and now that that has ended I will have to redefine myself…find my life’s “new normal.”  It is not a process I had expected or even wanted to go through but I understand it will be necessary in order for me to move on.  It may not be comfortable and may not be easy but it must be done.

For now, I can only tell you that I am experiencing many of the “symptoms” of grieving of which others before me have advised me to anticipate.  The sudden engulfing wave of loss and pain, the unexpected tears, the mental confusion, the paralysis; all these things I have experienced and will most likely continue to experience for the foreseeable future.

So I ask for your understanding if I don’t seem like my old self or if some days I am withdrawn.  Or if, overcome with emotion, I excuse myself.  Maybe I will not want to do things that I have done in the past or I may need some private time to myself.  There may be parties, celebrations or holidays that I chose to bypass. These things will happen and they are a natural part of the process.  During this adjustment time I may need your help and if I do I will ask for it.  That may be as simple as listening to me talk or sitting quietly with me.  I don’t really know.  Otherwise, when you consider me, consider that “I am okay.”  No need to constantly ask me or worry about me.  I assure you that whatever pain I am feeling has not been caused by anything you have done or said.  I refer to the pain as “emotional shrapnel.”  It has to work itself out and will not be denied.

I look forward to the day when I have passed through the grief.  I look forward to the day when I can fondly remember all that I had with Denise…without the overwhelming pain and without the uncontrollable tears.  I look forward to the day when I have truly accepted the reality of the loss and made peace with it.  I am working toward that.  At this time, I appreciate your patience and concern.  And I thank you for all of the support you have shown.

God Bless You,

johnkmurray

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Re: First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2011, 02:03:15 PM »
Last year was the first Christmas since losing my wife to cancer. Christmas was always such a special time of year for us and facing it for the first time without her was not something I was prepared to do. Not surprisingly I had difficulty getting into the spirit of the season. More "Bah, Humbug" than "Merry Christmas". My first thoughts were that if I ignored the season it would just go away and stop bothering me. Didn't happen, dangit.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I raised the white flag and decorated the house, then went on Facebook and posted the following to Kit's page.
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care,
The lights are up,the garlands strung.The house looks festive
But, like a gaily wrapped box with no present inside, it sits,
Empty


In spite of my best efforts to ignore it Christmas didn't go away. I think I had Christmas dinner with friends - I know I didn't spend the entire day home, alone. That day I posted the following to Kit's Facebook:
Christmas Day
Our first apart after so many together
I lay in our bed, tears soaking your pillow
Tell Baby Jesus Happy Birthday for me
While you’re at it ask him why you had to suffer
... And be taken from us far too soon
I’m told that God has a plan
Some days I think he just makes shit up as he goes along


Is there a moral to this story? Basically, Christmas is going to suck, but with the help of good friends/family we can get through it. I'll probably decorate again this year, although that single stocking looked kinda lonely on the fireplace. Like last year I'll draw the line at putting up a tree. Just not gonna do it. The empty space beneath a tree that used to be filled with gifts, well I'm just not gonna face that.

John
« Last Edit: October 05, 2011, 02:05:52 PM by johnkmurray »

browneyedgirl

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Re: First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2011, 04:28:38 PM »
(((John))))

I know the feeling of ignoring Christmas.  My brother loved Christmas and he loved giving.  Unfortunaly, we couldn't ignore it because of the young son he left behind. 

I used to love Christmas, the smells, the decorations, the food.....This will be my 3rd Christmas without my brother.  And yes, you're right, it sucks, and it still sucks...but for me, it's getting a little better. 

Lots of love and hugs, always!
Tony Repola 07/20/66 – 03/29/09
I know you are fishing in the oceans and streams of heaven

Terry

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Re: First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2011, 04:45:01 PM »

The first few are pretty rough, especially if we try to just go through the motions, for others. I tried that one year and failed miserably, and it wasn't until weeks 'after' Christmas that I paid that price.

We do what we can and what we need to to get through. I'm glad to hear that you're snuggled safe in your choices.

Nice entries to Kit. :(

(((((John)))))
"One thing I've learned on this journey (it's been a year and a few days since my husband, Tom, died of cancer), is that in the beginning, there is a lot of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back shuffle." - RobinBlue - Spouse Loss

DaveB

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Re: HolidayTips/Ideas
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2011, 07:44:46 PM »
Oneangel, sounds like we do have similar situations. I have two sisters, but they both live kind of far away, so I don't see them very often. That's it for my family. My wife's family all live close to me. My wife and I moved from far away many years ago just to be close to her family. I have been part of that family since day one, yet...I feel more like an outsider now than I ever have before. Doesn't make sense, because they've never done anything to make me feel like one. I will say this, and maybe it will apply to you as well...they told me after Judy passed away that they hoped to never lose me, because I am now their connection to her. When they see me, they see Judy too, because of all our years together. We had become one, essentially. And the same is true for me...when I see them, listen to them, observe how they act, I see Judy. I don't know, maybe that's why I'm having trouble. The last time we all were together was in May, for Judy's birthday celebration. It was a pretty emotional day, for all of us.

Gaberax, I like the idea of a letter. Thank you for sharing that. That's something I hadn't thought of. That would give everyone a good idea of how I'm doing, instead of them trying to guess, which I think they are all probably doing now.

arthur

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Re: First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2011, 10:10:32 PM »
Wow what a valuable topic. I'm going to copy it and post it at work at my desk and on my fridge for this my 1st xmas without my sweet Maureen. Thanks everyone!-arthur

Terry

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Re: First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2011, 11:04:42 PM »

Love to you, Arthur!!
"One thing I've learned on this journey (it's been a year and a few days since my husband, Tom, died of cancer), is that in the beginning, there is a lot of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back shuffle." - RobinBlue - Spouse Loss

gaberax

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Re: HolidayTips/Ideas
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2011, 08:41:01 AM »
DaveB,

If you haven't heard of GriefShare, I advise you look into it. It is a 13 week program that is available in many churches.  A friend advise me and I am attending a session at two different churches.  While I personally feel that the video portion of the session is a little heavy handed with a religious overtone, the part of the session where everyone talks about their loss and how they are coping is invaluable.  There is a workbook that you need and it runs about $15 but I only had to buy it once.

Good luck to you.

browneyedgirl

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Re: First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2011, 09:53:24 AM »
(((Arthur)))

Lots of love to you, my friend.
Tony Repola 07/20/66 – 03/29/09
I know you are fishing in the oceans and streams of heaven

johnkmurray

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Re: First Christmas after a Death
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2011, 12:42:30 PM »
(((Pam)))
You offer so much of yourself to the rest of us here that I lose sight of the fact that your own loss is so recent.

(((Terry)))
That first Christmas without Kit seemed so empty, but I'm hoping I can 'do better' this year and face it rather than let it happen to me.

John

Terry

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Surviving Grief During the Holiday Season
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2011, 03:15:08 PM »

Written by: Angela Morrow, RN

With the first fallen leaf of autumn, we begin to anticipate the holidays ahead. Our senses are acute and take in everything: the smell of turkey roasting and freshly baked pies; the holiday songs playing on the radio; the sound of laughter from our loved ones who have gathered together. But for those of us who are experiencing illness, grief, or the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be a time of sadness, pain, anger, or dread.

The ebb and flow of grief can overwhelm us with waves of memories, especially during the holidays. Grief will also magnify the stress that is already a part of the holiday season. How do we begin to fill the emptiness we feel when it seems everyone else is overflowing with joy? There are some strategies to help you cope during the holidays and beyond.

Strategies for Survival


Offer Yourself Some Grace

The best thing you can do this holiday season is be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is your feeling. Don’t fall prey to the belief that you have to feel a certain way or do certain things for your holiday to be “normal.” If you feel sad, allow the tears to come; if you feel angry, allow yourself to vent some steam.

Be Kind to Yourself

Get the rest and nourishment you need. Don’t take on any more than you can handle. If you need to be alone, honor that. If you crave the company and affection of others, seek it out. Do whatever it is that feels right to you.

Ask For and Accept Help

The holiday season is no time to feign strength and independence. You will need the help and support of others to get through. Don’t feel as though you are a burden. People get immense satisfaction and joy from helping those they care about.

In times of need, other people desire to help but often don’t know how. This is the time for you to
speak up and make your needs known. If you need someone to help you with meals, shopping, or decorating, tell them so. They will be delighted to feel like they are helping you in some way.

The same holds true for your emotional needs. Friends and family may feel uncomfortable when it comes to talking about your grief. They may think that you don’t want to talk about it and don’t want to remind you of your pain. Again, you will have to direct them in the best way to help you. If you want to talk about what you’re going through or just want a shoulder to cry on, let your loved ones know.

Find Support

Sharing your feelings is the best way to get through them. You need people you can talk to. Friends and relatives can be a great support to us during times of grief, but they are sometimes full of their own grief or so immersed in the business of the holidays that they cannot be a support to you. Support groups for caregivers and the bereaved are plentiful during the holiday season. Check with local churches, community centers, and hospice agencies to find a group that suites you. Support group members often make friends that end up being a source of support for years to come.

Make a Difference

Most of us like to help others during the holiday season. Taking the ornament off the tree at the mall, dropping our change in the charity basket, or donating to our favorite organization can help us feel like we are contributing to a greater good. Helping others in times of grief can help take the focus off yourself and your pain. Volunteering at a nursing home, hospital, children’s shelter, or soup kitchen can be cathartic in times of pain. Even helping a friend or family member in need can be healing.

Stop the Comparisons

It’s easy to watch other families and compare them to your own. Seeing other families together and enjoying the festivities may make you feel deprived. Keep in mind that the holidays are stressful for most families and are rarely the magical gatherings depicted in greeting cards. Try to embrace what you have rather than compare it to what you think others have.

Remember That You Will Survive

As hard as it is for you right now, you will survive. You will make it through the holidays in one piece. It may be the most difficult season in your time of grief, but it will pass. And when it does, you will come out on the other side stronger than before.
You don’t have to enjoy the holidays. You don’t even have to go through the motions pretending to enjoy the festivities. But, it’s also just fine to have a good time in spite of your grief. If happiness slips through your window of grief, allow it to happen and enjoy it. You won’t be doing your loved one an injustice by feeling joyous. The best gift you can give anyone you love, even someone you have lost, is being true to yourself and living your life to the fullest.
"One thing I've learned on this journey (it's been a year and a few days since my husband, Tom, died of cancer), is that in the beginning, there is a lot of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back shuffle." - RobinBlue - Spouse Loss