Monday, December 12, 2016

Supporting those experiencing grieving through the holidays

            This is now my second holiday season without my beloved David. The realization that I am now an experienced widow is of no comfort. I had read where the second holiday, like the second year, might be more difficult, and for me, that seems to be the case. The protective feelings of numbness and shock are gone, reality is in full force everywhere I turn. My expectations of myself were higher this year, and that was unrealistic.
            It is possible to search the Internet and find suggestions for ways grieving persons may survive or manage the holidays. Finding an individual path through the grief may include travel, the establishment of new traditions, or the total immersion into traditions of old. Whatever the choices, while everyone around us is experiencing holidays filled with love, joy and merriness, we are not necessarily. In fact, we most likely are fighting feelings of loneliness and depression. We are overwhelmed with loss and emotion, and even when we experience rare moments of joy, the joy may bring emotional reactions. While all the suggested survival hints are helpful, nothing is more helpful than having the support of friends and family. The obvious question however is, what can I do to help someone is grieving during the holidays?
            One of the most important ways friends and family can help is to be supportive, regardless of choices. Last year I chose not to decorate, I could not face getting out the decorations. I was so lucky that my family supported me and did not try to talk me into trying to “get in the spirit”, rather they respected that I simply needed space from the emotional traditions of the past. Had I been questioned or encouraged otherwise, the judgment of their decisions would have amplified my loneliness. If on the other hand I had decided to try and go through the motions or chosen to maintain traditions, offers of help would have been very appreciated. This year when I got the decorations from the attic I had my three year old grandson to help. He thought nothing of my shaking voice or quiet tears as I told him the story of the ornaments. Perhaps a new tradition was made. Another help last year was my daughter in laws offer to host our family Christmas, especially since I had no decorations. The holidays involve not only the emotional burden of the loss but also the reality that I must do all the holiday work alone. Offers of practical help can be very valuable! This year I have enjoyed invitations from my friends to do holiday things together. Thanksgiving dinner, dinner parties, and even shopping with friends have made things more fun. During those visits we have remembered and laughed together. Nothing brings more comfort and joy that sharing memories and stories of David.      

            One very silent and yet valuable way to show your love and support is by recognizing the loss and letting it be known that you miss that person as well. Often with an intention of protecting my feelings, people avoid mentioning David. The silence of those around me can contribute to the loneliness. Although my head knows it is not true, it can be easy to believe that everyone has forgotten and moved on, leaving me alone in my loss. No one else lives with the loss every day, so knowing someone else is missing him too is very comforting. Sharing a fun story or memory is helpful, please go right ahead. Another friend made a donation in David’s name. When I got the acknowledgement it let me know that someone else was remembering him, and his love for his favorite charity. There are many ways that friends and family can help support those grieving in this time. Above all else, be there and recognize the struggle. If you witness some tears, please ignore, it’s just the love seeping out, and I’m touched that you may feel it too.

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