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Holidays: Survival for Grievers and Cargivers

Published by Chapster on 2002/10/21 (2089 reads)
This article is a script from an interview we did on grief during the holidays. The interview was in 2002 with Dr. James Griffin, Station Director of KEOM 88.5FM, Mesquite Schools Radio. At that time we participated once a month in their Community Focus segment.

Q: It may seem hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner. Considering what so many people have been through since the September 11th attacks in the U.S., the approaching holidays may be particularly hard to get through. Any thoughts about how to experience the holidays when we may not feel in holiday mood.

A: Well, I think that what you just described, Dr. Griffin, is exactly what many folks are feeling right now . . . I mean, it may seem hard enough just getting through each day while coping with the newest news release about events across the nation and the world. As the holidays are quickly approaching, how are we expected to balance these feelings of perhaps fear or anxiety with the stereotypical holiday festive mood?

Actually, many of us may be thinking about the holidays with dread or despondency. These are all understandable and natural reactions to loss and generally hard times. I think that one way to deal with these feelings is to consciously plan for how we want to experience the upcoming holiday season - it's a way to increase one's sense of control over uncontrollable times - thereby instilling hope for the holidays.

Q: What are some things that people might consider when thinking about plans for the holidays?

A: My first suggestion may be to sit down and think about what the holidays really mean to you. Is the focus more religious or spiritual, is it more of an annual family reunion, or is it a time with your own immediate family, baking goodies and buying gifts, etc.?

Secondly, think about celebrations from previous holidays - what was the good, bad, and maybe even ugly about those times? Try to be as detailed as you can about what you would rather not have to do again and which experiences are so important that you would definitely want to keep.

Third, write out a list with the following columns:

Used To Do;

Need To Do;

Want To Do;

Will Do.

For each activity that you are asked to be a part of or want to be a part of, write it down in the above columns. Be specific - incorporate into your list what's meaningful to you about the holidays and even consider some new ways to spend these days - maybe helping out as a volunteer delivering meals to shut-ins over the holidays or making decorations for a nearby nursing home or senior center.

Lastly, talk with your family and friends about your thoughts and together you all may be able to not only lessen the stress amongst yourselves but put more personal meaning into the holidays.

Q: What about those people who have recently experienced the death of a loved one or other types of loss?

A: For those folks who have experienced loss through the death of a loved one or loss through a job lay-off, or a divorce, or other major life changes, the holidays can be particularly hard. It may be more important than ever for those who are grieving or struggling through a very difficult time in life, to take time out for themselves and not minimize their feelings. A couple of things that may be helpful are:

Respect your feelings: although it may be the season to be jolly, it's okay if you don't feel or act that way, especially when you are grieving:

Set limits for yourself: It's important to rest, reflect, and plan according to your needs.

Give yourself permission to simplify activities while focusing on what is personally meaningful to you.

Ask for help and tell others what you may need, such as, someone to talk with, help with something your loved one used to handle, or help with the chores and errands. Reach out to others and give them the opportunity to help you.

Take some of the pressure off yourself: make plans and accept invitations with the agreement that others understand if you want to change your mind the last minute.

Consider joining a grief support group where you can openly talk about feelings while gaining support from others who may be sharing similar feelings.

Lastly, be gentle with yourself, accept your moods, accept that yours might not be the perfect family, and accept if things don't turn out exactly as you may have planned it.

This is the season of blessings, grace and forgiveness . . . allow yourself to experience the healing nature of these gifts too!

Q: I know that oftentimes there are services about Coping with the Holidays - where can people find out more about this?

A: Many churches, grief support groups, hospices, and hospitals offer these sessions. Listeners can call one of these resources to find out more information in their community. Through ElderHope, Mike and I will be offering a free service entitled: Hope for the Holidays: Honoring Loss - Creating Memories, on Sunday, November 4th 2002 from 2 to 4 p.m. at The University of Dallas in Irving. We will begin the session with more suggestions for finding meaning in the holidays and then offer a candle-lighting ceremony to honor our losses and remember those that we love. Listeners can call ........................ to reserve a place on November 4th.

Tags: grief   Holidays   service   memorial  

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