Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grief and the Holidays

While the majority of people enjoy the holiday's with their loved ones, parents watching the enjoyment of their children on the anticipated morning, some have a more bleak day ahead of them. Me, I'll be sleeping in, hiding under my covers and wishing the day away. I've seen post after post of friends enjoying decorating for their holiday season, while I haven't decorated at all. I know it's a choice, I could push myself and dig through boxes to find my Christmas decorations. The only obstacle is dealing with items that I can't bring myself to deal with yet. It's been over a year, I thought I would be able to figure out what to do by now; where to put things and how to handle my emotions. The truth is, I'm not. Everyone handles grief differently and there isn't a day that goes by when the thought of my son doesn't take my breath away and the sadness expands with a deep burning sensation within my chest. However, I know I'm not alone. The Holiday's can be difficult for a lot of people. Each day there is a new obstacle, a new challenge, and more emotions I have to try to deal with. Some days are better than other too. The Holiday's seem to increase the hardships to a maximum level. So, in an attempt to try to work through these times, I took to the internet to try to research how to make it through the season and keep what little sanity I have left.

Top Tips to Surviving the Holidays

Honor Them - for those that left us too soon, find a way that you can honor them. Many people believe that those that have passed know how we honor them here in the present and they enjoy it. We decorate my sons grave site; we just went today! My sister made my son an adorable Christmas tree, while my parents bought him items too, and we went together to honor him and make him a part of our life. While other parents are buying their children toys and other goodies, I bought my son items for his grave site. I'm starting to understand though, it's still an action; whether buying him a gift he could have enjoyed in his physical form, or enjoy in his spiritual state, either way I made the effort, and it did feel good to be doing something for him. While last year my sister honored my son, her nephew's passing by having a star named after him, and for Christmas she gave remembrance items, as well as did my parents and sister have presents from my son; which was hard but, I cherish them for their thoughts and efforts.

Daily Reminders - through sites such as Grief Share, you can sign up for daily e-mails to help you through the tougher times. Another great suggestion through Grief Share (Reasons) is to focus on the reason for the season (in my case, I celebrate Christmas, so it's all about Christ). So, this season I am going to focus on the reason for the season. Where the article is about how Jesus "came to end all suffering" although, as a person suffering, this isn't that comforting; it's actually more upsetting to think there is still so much suffering left int he world. However, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" John 10:10. What this says to me is that we need to find our happy; find something each day to laugh and to be thankful for - God wants us to be happy.

Get Help - something I have a hard time with is asking for help. Through AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), they suggest leaning on your friends and family. Talk with them about what you are going through and have someone, a "buddy" to go with you places that can help you through. However, it has been my experience that after your loved one passes (and maybe it's just because it was my son, and a child's death is difficult for anyone to talk about) but, people just don't seem to talk about it. Maybe partially because they don't want to upset me or maybe because they don't want to be upset themselves. Then again, many people (myself included) aren't well equipped to comfort those that are suffering inside. But, I can't tell you how elated I feel inside when someone does say my son's name or talks about them. So, don't be afraid to talk about the deceased. What doesn't help, when I'm feeling low, is the comment "he wouldn't have wanted you to be sad" or something along those lines. He's not here. Instead, try bringing up happy holiday memories that involve the deceased, or suggest how you could honor their memories instead. Believe me, the person grieving is going through a hard enough time, they don't need to be scolded.

Self-Love - forgive yourself and give yourself the time and energies to deal with your feelings. Another thing I have to work on. First, I never knew learning to love myself was going to be so difficult. Second, that I have a hard time dealing with my feelings. I let them well-up until I just burst and can't hold it in anymore. I shared a post I read the other day that stated "I'm exhausted from being stronger than I am" (or something like that). On the Hand to Hold site they suggest to "Be Generous with Others [and] Yourself". Share your talents and share with others because it makes us feel good (basically). "Expect that you will feel sad sometimes. Or angry. Or alone. These are all appropriate feelings and are an acknowledgement of the intense love you hold for your child" or your loved one that has passed.

Thorn Pathways

When looking up the scriptures in the Godvine fictional story titled Thanksgiving Thorns, I came across Suffering is a great grace... quote from St. Faustina. Remember the pain that you feel is a direct result of how deeply your love for the deceased. In Thanksgiving Thorns, it is about a flower shop associate and her faith in God and how we should be thankful for the thorns in our life. I didn't particularly care for the story, however I can appreciate the message. Even though we are deeply suffering, we shouldn't forget that He is still here for us. It seems like He's not, which I have felt but, suffering means so much more than what we are experiencing. God understand how mad we are at Him, yet He still remains. When I read scripture about how He knows all our days before we are even born and has given us what we need for this life, sometimes I feel harsh against this, as if I'm being punished. However, as my mother explained to me years ago that it's not a punishment at all. That He thinks so highly of us that He has given us the hardest of situations (Thanks!); it's about perspective. It seems absurd to say that any death is for our benefit but, as St. Faustina suggests through our suffering are still gifts we need to be thankful for.

So, now what? Well, find some funny videos on YouTube, laughing helps our brains in more beneficial ways. I read once how it's okay to visit being depressed and sad, just don't live there. Help yourself claw out of the darkness with the light of laughter. The next step is up to you! I know this year I haven't decorated at all because it's so upsetting, it would mean having to go through my sons items that I have in the same area that I haven't wanted to deal with yet. I've been contemplating on recruiting someone to help me with this, I know this would help me but, everyone's so busy. I need to just get-to-it, if it gets too hard then I can grab the box of tissues and work through those feelings too. I know it's much easier said than done though, so I'll continue to just take one day at a time.

How do you honor your deceased loved ones during the Holidays?
Comment with your tips and suggestions!