Reflections Bereavement Newsletter – Issue 4, 2014

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Navigating the Holidays with Peace and Hope

The experience of grief comes in seasons. It doesn’t follow a particular pattern and isn’t the same for everyone. Just as we experience the changing seasons in nature, there are seasons in grief. All who are reading this newsletter are at different individual places in the grieving process. As we come into fall with winter waiting right around the corner, we face (perhaps with dread) that Thanksgiving and Christmas are also on the horizon. We may experience a new surge of sadness thinking about the holidays without our loved one. Sometimes tears come at the most unexpected time and we wonder when life will hold joy again.

Holidays, whether secular or religious, are especially difficult following the loss of one we love. Holidays require extra energy while our grief depletes our energy. The joy of the season when we are in public places can remind us of our deep longing for the one we miss. The holiday season reminds us in many ways of our loss. We may feel that we are coping and even adjusting to our new reality in life and suddenly we feel washed over again with the feelings of deep sadness. The good news is that it is possible to find peace, light and hope for the future in the holidays. It requires some planning, adjusting and being open to new beginnings.

There is no “right way” to celebrate a holiday after the death of  a loved one, so leave the words “ought” or “should” out of your holiday planning this season. Decide what is most important to you. Make a list of those things and then say no to everything else. It’s ok to say no to invitations. It is ok to change “the way we’ve always done it.” You might change the location where you have Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Religious services can be particularly emotional. You might think about attending a different service or even attending a service at a different church. It’s ok to change old traditions or to begin new ones. In my own life after a difficult loss in our family we went to Angle Trees around town and found tags with the name of our loved one and purchased gifts for those children. A family friend donated to favorite charities in honor of their loved one, wrote the name of the charity on ornaments and hung them on the tree. On Christmas day they shared with other family members where they donated.

Instead of having a big Thanksgiving dinner, another family volunteered at a homeless shelter to serve dinner and found it so meaningful they did the same on Christmas day. Talk with your family about what is the most difficult for them during the holidays and what they might like to do different this year. The traditions let go this year can be brought back again when it feels right. We invite you to join with other families who have experienced the loss of a loved one in the past year along with members of Treasure Valley Hospice staff for a service of Darkness to Light. This is a time to be together, light a candle for your loved one and be present with and for one another as we look from the darkness of grief toward the light and hope of healing.

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