Thoughts on Grief During the Holidays and Major Events by Jessamyn Putnam
The holidays are here, and whether it is your first holiday following the loss of a loved one or not, suffice it to say, this is usually a rough time of year for those grieving the loss of someone they loved.
So what do you do? While there is no “one size fits all” approach, grief does not take a sabbatical at Christmas, or weddings, or birthdays. First and foremost, allow yourself and others the right to grieve. Everyone grieves differently, and instead of telling someone how to grieve, allow them the freedom to grieve in their own way and do not take it personally. I have twin boys, and while identical, they grieve differently. One acts out and says mean things, the other just cries and cries with very loud, heart-wrenching sobs. I acknowledge their loss and give them space and forgiveness, while also allowing myself the opportunity to step away and cry my own tears. We can also be hard on ourselves, but this is not the time. We must give ourselves grace and space to grieve. Stifling or denying grief leads to unresolved grief which can cause physiological problems and make you physically ill.
Recognize and commemorate your loved one by saving a seat. Set a place at the table, include a favorite shirt on the chair, shoes on the floor, and/or photo on the place setting. Your loved one might be physically gone but will remain ever present in your thoughts for some time to come. Encourage family and friends to share their memories or stories. While a loved one might no longer be with us, it is important to remember the good times, to laugh about funny things they said or did, and to acknowledge that he or she is missed. Yes, there is a strong possibility of tears, but it is also a time for family bonds and bonds of friendship to grow stronger.
Know you are not alone. Friends oftentimes do not know how to respond to someone grieving the loss of a loved one. They would love for you to reach out and tell them what you need. At the same time, it is important for friends to offer specific ways of assistance – cooking a meal, mowing the lawn, folding laundry, a cup of coffee. Every day tasks can often feel overwhelming when someone you loved has died. Lean on your churches, funeral homes, hospices, and social/service organizations as many offer grief programs and/or assistance with daily tasks.
Remember to breathe. Take each day at a time. And save a seat for the one you loved.
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