Healing Your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season

Healing Your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season

by Alan D. Wolfelt
     
 

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With compassionate insight, this handbook helps those in mourning through what can be the hardest time of year—the holiday season. Mourners will better understand their complex emotions after reading about such topics as honoring thoughts and feelings, creating new traditions, finding ways to de-stress, and incorporating healing rituals into the holiday season.

Overview

With compassionate insight, this handbook helps those in mourning through what can be the hardest time of year—the holiday season. Mourners will better understand their complex emotions after reading about such topics as honoring thoughts and feelings, creating new traditions, finding ways to de-stress, and incorporating healing rituals into the holiday season. This book's practical wisdom also covers issues such as decision-making during the holidays and coping with the blending of mourning and celebration. All of the answers and advice in this guide are provided in the popular 100 ideas format that features one idea per page, allowing readers to fully absorb each suggestion.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781617220883
Publisher:
Companion Press
Publication date:
12/01/2005
Series:
Healing Your Grieving Heart Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
128
File size:
384 KB

Read an Excerpt

Healing Your Holiday Grief

100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season


By Alan D. Wolfelt

Center for Loss and Life Transition

Copyright © 2005 Alan D. Wolfelt
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-879651-48-7



CHAPTER 1

1.


BE COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF


• Don't judge yourself or set your expectations too high. Be kind to yourself.

• The journey through grief is a long and difficult one. It is also a journey for which there is no preparation.

• Be compassionate with yourself as you encounter painful thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion in grief is essential year-round, but especially during the emotionally-fraught holidays.

• Let your holiday grief be what it is. And let yourself — your new, grieving self — be who you are.


CARPE DIEM

Give yourself a rest break today. Lay your body down for at least 20 minutes during the afternoon and relax your muscles. Sleep if sleep comes.


2.

SAVOR THE MOMENT


• When you think about the holiday season as this vast period of celebration from Thanksgiving to New Year's, it can definitely seem overwhelming, especially when you're in mourning.

• But when you take them one day at a time — or better yet, one moment at a time — the holidays have much to offer mourners:

* - Mourners need downtime to retreat into their grief. The holidays provide a lull in our normally hectic schedules.

* - Mourners need the presence and support of people who love them. The holidays give us opportunities to be with our friends and family.

* - Mourners need to remember the person who died. The holidays encourage memory-sharing.

• This holiday season, take what you need from the holidays — moment by moment — and discard the rest.


CARPE DIEM

Right now, turn off your mind and attend to the moment. Pay attention to what you are hearing, tasting, smelling, seeing, feeling on your skin. Savor the sensation of life.


3.

DON'T CATASTROPHIZE


• Don't assume that your holidays will be totally miserable this year.

• Yes, if you are actively mourning, you will experience pain and sadness. But if you spend time in the company of people you love, you may also experience moments of great joy and hope.

• Be open to the possibility of happiness during the holidays. And if and when you do feel glimpses of happiness, do so without guilt. You are still alive, and finding happiness means you are carrying on with your life's purpose.


CARPE DIEM

For a minute or two, allow yourself to think about what could turn out to be a miserable holiday experience. Now re-visualize that same experience, this time foreseeing moments of joy and happiness intermingled with your grief. Set your intention on the latter.


4.

SURVIVE


• Early grief is often characterized by feelings of shock and numbness. You may feel dazed or stunned.

• These normal feelings are nature's way of temporarily protecting you from the full reality of the death. They help insulate you psychologically until you are more able to tolerate what you don't want to believe.

• As disbelief wanes, pain waxes. Grief usually hurts more before it hurts less.

• If the death was very recent, you may be in survival mode this holiday season. If that's true for you, it's OK — the world will keep turning whether you participate in the holidays or not.


CARPE DIEM

Allow yourself to be in survival mode this holiday season if that's where you find yourself. Indulge your survival instincts. Do what they tell you to do and let the rest slide.


5.

KEEP WHAT MATTERS


• Because you're in mourning this year, you may feel like not "doing" the holidays at all. That's an understandable thought!

• But your family's holiday traditions are an important part of your shared history as well as your continuing lives. You may find yourself wanting to celebrate as you always have for memory's sake.

• You might also consider simplifying your holiday rituals instead of abandoning them altogether. Keep the traditions that matter most to you and set the others aside, at least for now.

• Simplify by keeping a tradition but paring it down. Instead of hosting a formal sit-down dinner, for example, have a buffet potluck or ask someone else to host the dinner. Use disposable plates instead of your good china.


CARPE DIEM

Make a list of all your holiday traditions and circle those that you think are most essential.


6.

FIND YOUR GRIEF'S FINGERPRINT


• Your grief is unique. It is the one-of-a-kind product of the unique relationship and love you shared with the person who died.

• Just as the lines and whorls of your fingerprint are like no one else's, your grief will be unlike anyone else's.

• While in many ways your thoughts and feelings will be similar to those of others who have experienced the death of someone loved, they will not be identical.

• Accept your unique thoughts and feelings this holiday season. Find ways to mourn that work for you. When others judge your grief, don't take it to heart.


CARPE DIEM

What is your grief telling you to do (or not do) this minute? Honor its voice.


7.

ATTEND TO YOUR SPIRIT


• Above all, mourning is a spiritual journey of the heart and soul. And the holidays are a spiritual time of year. Together the two demand your spiritual time and attention.

• If you have faith or spirituality, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you.

• Attending church or your place of worship, reading religious texts, and praying are a few conventional ways of expressing your faith. Be open to less conventional ways, as well, such as meditating or spending time alone in nature.


CARPE DIEM

Where do you feel most spiritually connected to the person who died? Go there today and feel her presence.


8.

UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRIEF AND MOURNING


• Grief is the constellation of internal thoughts and feelings we have when someone loved dies.

• Mourning is the outward expression of grief.

• Everyone grieves when someone loved dies, but if we are to heal, we must also mourn.

• Many of the ideas in this book are intended to help you find ways during the holiday season to mourn deaths that have impacted your life. If you express your grief outside of yourself, the holidays will be richer and perhaps less painful.


CARPE DIEM

How does your grief feel right now? Mourn your grief by telling someone you trust about your thoughts and feelings right now.


9.

UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #1: Acknowledge the reality of the death.

• You must gently confront the difficult reality that someone you love is dead and will never physically be present to you again.

• Whether the death was sudden or anticipated, acknowledging the full reality of the loss may occur over weeks and months.

• You will first acknowledge the reality of the loss with your head. Only over time will you come to acknowledge it with your heart.

• At times you may push away the reality of the death. This is normal. You will come to integrate the reality in doses as you are ready.


CARPE DIEM

Tell someone about the death today. Talking about it will help you work on this important need.


10.

UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #2: Embrace the pain of the loss.

• This need requires mourners to embrace the pain of their loss — something we naturally don't want to do. It is easier to avoid, repress or push away the pain of grief than it is to confront it.

• It is in embracing your grief, however, that you will learn to reconcile yourself to it.

• During the holidays, your pain may be closer to the surface. The ritual and intimacy of the holidays may make you more emotional. Remember that your emotions are normal and natural, and when you feel them it means it's time for you to feel them.

• If you keep yourself too busy during the holidays, you may leave yourself no time to work on this critical need of mourning. Don't overschedule and don't try to "keep busy" simply to avoid the pain.


CARPE DIEM

If you feel up to it, allow yourself a time for embracing pain today. Dedicate 15 minutes to thinking about and feeling the loss. Reach out to someone who doesn't try to take your pain away and spend some time with him.


11.

UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #3: Remember the person who died.

• When someone loved dies, they live on in us through memory. To heal, you need to actively remember the person who died and commemorate the life that was lived.

• Never let anyone take your memories away in a misguided attempt to save you from pain. "Try to stop thinking about her" is not good advice.

• A wonderful thing about the holidays is that they encourage us to remember those we love. Even though it may hurt to remember, don't forget that remembering the past makes hoping for the future possible.


CARPE DIEM

Think about the earliest memories of holidays spent with the person who died. Do you have photographs from those years? If so, get them out and spend some time cherishing them today.


12.

UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #4: Develop a new self-identity.

• Part of your self-identity was formed by the relationship you had with the person who died.

• You may have gone from being a "wife" to a "widow" or from a "parent" to a "bereaved parent." The way you defined yourself and the way society defines you is changed.

• Even your holiday self has changed. You may have gone from loving the holidays to dreading them or from being a big holiday baker to not wanting to spend a minute in the kitchen. The holidays will be different this year in part because you're different this year.

• You need to re-anchor yourself, to reconstruct your self-identity. This is arduous and painful work.

• Many mourners discover that as they work on this need, they ultimately discover some positive changes, such as becoming more caring or less judgmental.


CARPE DIEM

Write out a response to this prompt: I used to be ________________. Now that ________ died, I am _______________. This makes me feel ___________. Keep writing as long as you want.


13.

UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #5: Search for meaning.

• When someone loved dies, we naturally question the meaning and purpose of life and death.

• "Why?" questions may surface uncontrollably and often precede "How" questions. "Why did this happen?" comes before "How will I go on living?"

• Part of your struggle with the holidays will likely involve trying to find ongoing meaning in them. It may seem like the holidays are meaningless this year. Trust that in time and through the work of mourning, you will find meaning in the holidays again.

• You will probably question your philosophy of life and explore religious and spiritual values as you work on this need. Remember that having faith or spirituality does not negate your need to mourn. "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted."


CARPE DIEM

Think about what the holidays mean to you and how that meaning may feel different this year. What can you do to restore meaning in the holidays?


14.

UNDERSTAND THE SIX NEEDS OF MOURNING


Need #6: Receive ongoing support from others.

• As mourners, we need the love and understanding of others if we are to heal. When your friends and family reach out to you during the holidays, accept their support. Let them spend time with you and take care of you. You need their help and they need to give it.

• Don't feel ashamed by your dependence on others right now. Instead, revel in the knowledge that others care about you.

• Unfortunately, our society places too much value on "carrying on" and "doing well" after a death. So, many mourners are abandoned by their friends and family soon after the death. If you find yourself alone this holiday season, reach out to neighbors, people at your place of worship, or a grief support group.

• Grief is a process, not an event, and you will need the continued support of your friends and family for weeks, months and years.


CARPE DIEM

Sometimes your friends want to support you but don't know how. Ask. Call your closest friend right now and ask her to help you through the holidays. Suggest specifically how she could most help.


15.

KNOW THAT GRIEF DOES NOT PROCEED IN ORDERLY, PREDICTABLE "STAGES"


• Though the "Needs of Mourning" are numbered 1-6, grief is not an orderly progression towards healing. Don't fall into the trap of thinking your grief journey will be predictable or always forward-moving.

• Mourners often tell me that they thought the holidays would be worse than they actually turned out to be. Grief can be unpredictable.

• This holiday season, you will probably experience a multitude of different emotions in a wave-like fashion. You will also likely encounter more than one need of mourning at the same time.

• Be compassionate with yourself as you experience your own unique grief journey.


CARPE DIEM

Has anyone told you that you are in this or that "stage" of grief? Ignore this usually well-intended advice. Don't allow yourself or anyone else to compartmentalize your grief.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Healing Your Holiday Grief by Alan D. Wolfelt. Copyright © 2005 Alan D. Wolfelt. Excerpted by permission of Center for Loss and Life Transition.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author


Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, is the director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. He writes the "Children and Grief" column for Bereavement Magazine and has appeared on Larry King Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The Today Show. He is the author of Healing a Teen's Grieving Heart, Healing Your Grieving Heart, and Understanding Your Grief. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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