Sunday, December 7, 2008

5 - Things to Know About Grief and the Holidays - Part 2

Top Five Common Fears of Holiday Greif:

Part - 2/2 of 5 Things to know about grief during the holidays

1.) The Fear of Pain on or during the Holiday – The same feeling one gets when they know they need to have a medical procedure or go to the doctor or dentist. In your mind the procedure is magnified. As a matter of fact the anticipation in your mind may have been more painful than the actual procedure was.

I can recall as a child my aunt died a tragic and unexpected death just weeks prior to Christmas and due to the circumstances surrounding her death our family Christmas’s was overshadowed with the anticipation of pain during the month of December for many years. The adults in our family pressed forward making Christmas the most positive experience possible for us the children and grandchildren. We continued on with the same events and family gatherings that we were accustomed to having. Although it is often mis-stated that “you will get over it with time” , I feel that we simply learn to live differently and re-adjust our lives, we never “get over our loss” but oftentimes friends and family simply don’t know what else to say. Today, I still recall as a child the damper, the feeling of sorrow and void that now filled our family events. Although my cousins, the children that were directly affected by the loss of a mother attended the events but my aunt and their mother was not and the holidays were oftentimes filled with an unspoken sense of sadness. The Holiday anticipation or fear of what emotions was to accompany this season could be most painful.

2.) Fear of Preparation of The Holiday – The pain of grief may also be felt surrounding shopping, parties, dinners and sending Christmas cards, etc. The events you may have attended together with a spouse, child, parent now becomes quite awkward and you may feel like you no longer belong or fit in. The Christmas cards you sent with your spouse’s names on them are no longer on them.

3.) The Wish to Avoid the Whole Season (Event) – In some instances in an effort to cope or deal with the holiday some may avoid it altogether. I can remember certain events in life that made me feel this way. Several years ago, I was asked to serve as keynote speaker for commencement ceremonies at a highly revered Mortuary College in front of a large audience of professionals and their families. The months and weeks prior as I prepared my speech I felt no real fear but as the event became closer the thought of attempting to find a way to avoid this event did cross my mind. I can recall the morning of the event standing in my hotel room going over last minute details and thinking maybe traffic will be bad and I will miss this event and will not have to speak. But running away from or avoiding the event or appointment would serve me neither good nor those who were depending on me. Once I faced what felt like a mountain that I needed to climb and I was introduced and walked to the podium my fear and thoughts of avoidance dissipated. Facing some things head on is oftentimes difficult but is typically very healthy long term.

4.) Pressure You Feel Regarding Expectations and Participations – Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays does not take into account death and the emotions surrounding death. For those who have experienced the death of a loved one nothing feels jolly, happy or merry. Although you may feel the pressure to participate and say the seasonal greetings oftentimes you may feel like saying nothing at all.

5.) What Can I Do and Where Do I Get Help?
A.) Gain as much understanding about grief as possible as to how it can affect you emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Typically hospices, funeral homes, hospitals and churches will have grief libraries, brochures and assistance available to gain information. We all feel empowered with the right information.
B.) Attend Memorial Services honoring your loved one, typically provided at hospices, hospitals, churches and funeral homes, etc.
C.) Attend a grief support group. There is nothing to be ashamed of in attending a group like this. As a matter of fact is quite healthy and over time you may find that you are once again living a happy and healthy life again.
D.) Be cautious of your attitude toward others. As unfair as it may seem, others (friends, co-workers, church family, etc.) that are around you move on past the death faster than those who actually experience the death. Attempt to maintain a positive outlook.
E.) Seek refuge and take comfort spiritually from your minister, local church and other spiritual friends.

For without a past the future has no defined course of action. – Fred H. Kitchen
Frederick H. Kitchen, CFSP ©2008

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