Saturday, December 6, 2008

5 - Things to Know About Grief and the Holidays…

Part 1/2

After the death of a loved one we oftentimes find ourselves experiencing a sense of being without a plan or purpose.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified those emotional feelings as the stages of grief. She created the following five categories (DABDA) and they are in no particular order of how and when they may affect each individual.

Denial (surly this isn't happening to me!)
Anger (why is this happening to me and what did I do to deserve this?)
Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person and do a better job at…..if...)
Depression (I just don't care anymore about anything)
Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes and realize what has happened to me)

The most important thing to remember is that no one is immune to grief. It affects us all. Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that grief comes to everyone: “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. Romans 12:15 instructs us to “Mourn with those who mourn”. John 11:25-36 speaks of Jesus grieving deeply over the death of Lazarus. “Jesus wept,” and those around him saw his tears as an indication that Jesus had lost a close friend. “See, how much he loved him” they said. With the documented findings that even Jesus wept and grieved we should never feel that since we are experiencing grief we are and anomaly.
Greif is also very personal, we each deal with grief on a personal level in our own unique way and the time frame may be different for each of us. For instance when my father-in-law died, the overwhelming experience of grief did not affect me until weeks after his death.

The word “Holiday” has been defined as a religious feast or celebration, or a day the law sets aside for leisure or vacation. It is also a spirit of “joyfulness.” For those who grieve the loss of a loved one the word “holiday” takes on additional meaning – a milestone, a time of survival, a life change that some have compared to an emotional amputation. When something is removed from our body we feel pain and a loss. The same emotional feeling exists in losing a loved one.

What is Holiday Grief?
We grieve not only for the person we love who has died, but also for the life that we personally shared, lived and experienced with that person that has now come to an end. We grieve that our roles and responsibilities, our companionship, the physical space that we occupied together has now changed. The things that were automatic to us, the thing we may have taken for granted has now changed forever to never be the same. We grieve the time we spent living the important moments, creating life memories and those important events took on life and identity of their own that are now memory snapshots etched in our minds forever.

Christmas and other holidays each had a personal meaning to us, in many cases our sensory perceptions are affected, a scent, color or flavor that was created with our loved ones and it now has even a stronger meaning we have an encounter with one of those senses. The smell of perfume, baking, the taste of a certain food all re-opens our life memories and makes them readily available for instant recall.

We also grieve our life change. With my father being a minister, I have seen many of our friends and acquaintances experience life change due to loss and it can be quite an adjustment and emotional set-back. For the wives, their husbands were ministers and in one last breath of their spouse not only did their personal life but their identity has changed due to loss. This is also true in many other professions and businesses where the spousal team worked together and with the loss of the leading team member the others life and role immediately changes forever.

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