Coping with Loss During the Holidays
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My family seems to have the unfortunate experience of losing family members around the holidays. When my middle son was born my Grandfather had just passed a few months before (just before Christmas) and my father passed a few weeks after (just after Easter). Then, this year, my Grandmother and father in law passed just a couple of months ago. It has been difficult and we truly know that each “first” without them there is going to be extremely difficult. You know, first Christmas, first Easter, first Birthdays.
We recently had our youngest one’s third birthday party and not hearing my father-in-law’s hilariously exaggerated way he said Phillips’s name was so heartbreaking. Even now as I write this I can hear him say “Feeeelleeeppp” at the top of his lungs to which Philip would take off running, yelling back “Papa John I coming”. In a few days Christmas Eve dinner will be here and I always make Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. He and his wife always joined us, along with several other members of the family. Christmas Eve is also the night they gave our boys their gifts. I know this will be hard on everyone since only his wife will be here.
My Grandmother was also the one who helped raise me while my mom and dad worked full-time and often commuted long distances. She taught my how to bake, cook, sew, and crochet. When she got older and had to move into an assisted living facility, I’d come and visit her at least once a week to once a month for lunch and would regularly visit with my boys as they are her only great-grandchildren. That or I received a lecture for neglecting my granddaughter duty of allowing her to spoil her great grandchildren with sugar and love (trust me, I could have lived without the extra sugar).
While unfortunately this is not my first rodeo ride with loss and holidays, it is my husband’s, and it has been very difficult for him. He had just started getting close to his father and then suddenly, he was gone. Therapy has truly been the greatest blessing to him. While I can be there for him emotionally, the therapist is there to help him separate and process his thoughts and feelings and deal with his pain properly. Even counselors need counseling occasionally. We have also started going on dates more to have quality time together to keep us connected as it is so easy to dive into work and our personal hobbies and ignore those around us who are hurting also.
How To Cope With Loss
These are not listed in any particular order and are meant as a means to provide help in grieving. They may not all apply to everyone but I hope and pray that a few may provide help and/or guidance to you.
1. Grieve: This may seem obvious but it also the easiest to try to avoid. You have to grieve, let it out. Take a moment and scream, shout, curse your situation. Whatever it is as long as it doesn’t hurt others, do it.
2. Journal: I have found this most therapeutic for me. When I feel alone, like no one cares or understands I take a moment and write it down. It doesn’t have to be a novel, write it down in bullet points, doodle, write it in those brainstorm clouds we had to do in middle school (please tell me you had to do those too). Just get it out and put it down. Then once it’s out let it go. I have also written letters to my dad as though he were on travel. This helped my oldest son amazingly well with his grieving.
3. Talk to Someone: Do you have someone close to you that you trust? Talk to them, share a cup of tea or a phone call and talk to them about how you feel. Share a pint of ice cream and a box of tissues. No? Then how about a therapist? They go to school to learn the best way to help people in their time of need. You’d go to the doctors for a pain in your tummy, why not the therapist for a pain in your heart.
4. Exercise: So I may not be the best to preach this as my midsection does not represent an active runner by any means, but I do know from personal experience that beating the tar out of a punching bag, lifting weights, or doing cardio can give you the endorphins you need to feel in control and positive. If working out is not your idea of a good time then take a walk and reflect. During your walk take time to smell the flowers, watch how the breeze affects the trees and grass. Take in God’s beautiful handy work.
5. Get Sleep: You’re not sleeping? Can’t relax? You fear night-time because your mind runs faster and you can distract yourself? If I said I can’t relate, I’d be lying. But what I have learned is this: Turn off electronics 30 minutes to an hour before bed, get in your most comfy clothes possible, have a cup of chamomile tea, diffuse some peace and calming or lavender and breathe it in. Enforce cuddle time if possible. Take a nice warm shower or bath. Do what ever helps you to relax.
6. Give Back: Donate to a shelter, volunteer to feed the homeless, walk shelter animals, read to underprivileged children. These small acts will hopefully help you gain perspective and the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping others will help fill the void that has taken up residence in you heart.
7. Pray: Most importantly, pray. You are wonderfully and beautifully made, and God is with you in your hour of need. While it can be so easy to turn inward, don’t forget to look upward. He is there for you and will never leave your side. Ask him for direction and guidance. Ask him for strength to face each day. Praise Him for your family, nature, each step closer that you get to healing. Cry to Him, confide in Him. After my dad died, and my ex husband left I felt so terribly alone. After I put my two babies down to bed I’d take a moment and talk to my Father in heaven, there were days I’d scream, shout, cry. But no matter what, I was never alone and that in itself allowed me to heal.
What ever you do, just know that you are wonderful and every single cell in your body is worth its weight in gold. The emptiness that you are feeling, no matter how strong and vast is temporary and given time will lessen (even if it does not go away completely).
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