If you are experiencing grief, Christmas can be one of the hardest times of the year.  And Christmas is especially hard if it is your first Christmas without your loved one.   To survive the holiday season, consider these grief support holiday survival tips:

1. Know your limits.  If you are tired or don’t feel like doing something, you can choose not to do it.  The most important thing you need to do is care for yourself right now.  Your friends and family will understand if you choose not to join in some activities.

2. You can say no.  If you are invited to some holiday parties, but may not feel like going, it is okay to say no.  Others may want to see you out and about , as they simply do not like to see you in pain.  If you choose to decline some activities, a reason does not have to be given.

3.  Less is More.  Perhaps, it might be too painful to put up the tree without the person you lost.  Perhaps you don’t want to decorate your home the way you used too.  Maybe you don’t want to send out Christmas cards because the signature will be different.  Keeping things simple may help you feel less overwhelmed.  If you like, you can add some of the activities back in next year or the year after.

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A bauble on a Christmas tree.

Image via Wikipedia

1. Write a note in your holiday card recognizing the holidays will be difficult without their loved one this year. Just this simple acknowledgement provides support. Others may be telling the griever to get on with their life, or suggesting that since it’s the holidays, they can’t be depressed. Recognizing the loss is validating and validation provides support.

2. Support the choices the griever is making in regard to changing holiday tradition. Many people find it too painful to participate in certain parts of the holiday ritual. Making changes in how they will celebrate allows them to honor the holiday and celebrate it in a way that does not feel like salt is being rubbed in their wound.

3. Send a gift in honor of the loved one the family is grieving. A remembrance album or a memorial garden kit are two thoughtful suggestions. A gift in honor of the deceased provides family and friends with a comfortable setting to reminisce and honor the memories of their loved one.

4. Be available to listen. So many grieving people need the opportunity to talk as well as be heard. If you are a good listener you have an excellent gift to share with a grieving person

5. Offer to go with the bereaved to holiday functions. Having someone available to talk to or make faces at across the room can make many holiday gatherings easier. Remember to be available to leave early if the grieving person finds she just can’t take any more and needs to leave.

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November is National Family Stories Month in the United States. It’s a time to reflect on all of the wonderful stories, silly, funny, serious, or scary, that help to define your family.

Every family has thousands of stories to tell. Whether they are epic tales that changed people’s lives, or simple anecdotes that remind us of someone or someplace, they are all stories of things that have happened.Some people grew up hearing stories of the things that their grandparents and parents had done when they were younger. Others have families that are less enthusiastic sharers. But whether you grew up hearing the stories or not, rest assured, they are there. And they are all worthy of sharing.

Take this month as an opportunity to sit down with some of the older members of your family and ask them about their stories. You will undoubtedly learn something about them that you didn’t know before, and you can pass those stories on to other family members.

Maybe you will create a newsletter to send to your relatives, or a personal blog that you can update with new stories as you hear them. Maybe you’ll even go so far as to trace your family tree.

When your loved ones pass on, their stories will help to keep their memory alive and can be a  great comfort.   Sharing family stories is a great way to stay connected to your relatives, and creates a tradition of sharing and storytelling that can last for generations.

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Forever in My Heart
What to say, What to say in the sympathy card?  This is how my whole business started….with this question, how to support others when they lose a loved one?
When my mom passed away, right before Christmas in 1996, my life was undeniable shaken and simply would not be the same again.  I noticed that people had a hard time expressing their sympathy, and within a few weeks after the funeral, after all the cards stopped and I felt alone.
Over the years, I came to understand that people just aren’t comfortable with death, unless perhaps they have gone through a loss themselves.  To help other people from feeling alone, I started to share some of my writing with others who lost a family member.
The great thing about the written word is that it can be turned to time and again for support, at any time whether in the afternoon or in the middle of the night….for that extra support when you need it.
One of my favorite poems, Forever in My Heart, was dedicated to my husband’s brother, Michael Hanson (aka Waldo). Waldo passed away at 50, and his two beautiful kids have many of his wonderful traits.  My writing reflects my belief that our loved one are with us, guiding us from above.
Below is a short excerpt from Forever in My Heart, dedicated to Waldo.
“Let your faith be strong, for I’m home where I belong.
Please don’t be unhappy because I’m not in your sight.
I’m by your side every morning, noon and night” 
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With Sympathy Gifts and Keepsakes:  What Not to Say!

 

Friends sometimes say things to the grieving that are well-meaning, but not appropriate or helpful. To avoid making the same mistake, here are some things to remember and things NOT to say at time of loss

Avoid comparisons. Everyone’s grief is unique.

  • I know how you feel.”
  • “I understand how hard your loss must be for you and your children.”
  • “Let me tell you how my friend handled a rough time.”

Watch what you say. There is no replacement for the person who died.

  •  “You are young, you can re-marry.”
  • “Be glad you have two other healthy children.”

Avoid clichés. Pat answers do not acknowledge the loss or feelings of the bereaved.

  • Time heals everything.”
  • “Be strong.”
  • “You will never be given more than you can handle.”
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Reverse Living

 

This interesting viewpoint invites us to look differently at where we are in time and space as we live our lives.  It invites us too do the fun stuff now, like when you were a kid!  You live life backward….

Life is tough

It takes a lot of your time,
all your weekends,
and what do you get
at the end of it?

Death, a great reward.

I think that the life cycle
is all backwards.
You should die first,
get it out of the way.

Then you live twenty years
in an old-age home.
You are kicked out
when you’re too young.
You get a gold watch,
you go to work.
You work forty years
until you’re young enough
to enjoy your retirement.

You go to college,
you party until you’re ready
for high school.

You become a little kid,
you play;
you have no responsibilities,
you become a little boy or girl,
you go back into the womb,
you spend your last
nine months floating.

And you finish off
as a gleam in someone’s eye.

Quoted by Jack Kornfield in his book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry


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The mention of my child’s name
May bring tears to my eyes,

But it never fails to bring
…Music to my ears.
If you are really my friend,
Let me hear the beautiful music of his name.
It soothes my broken heart
And sings to my soul.
~ Author Unknown (From The Compassionate Friends)
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Consider Gratitude to Help You Grieve.

Gratitude , The Tall Ships' Races, Szczecin 2007

Image via Wikipedia

When you are faced with loss, it can be difficult to feel a sense of gratitude in your life, yet gratitude can lift your spirits and make you feel open to the blessings that are yet to come.

Think of all the things in your life for which you are grateful.  You are being caring to yourself when you remember the things that make your life worth living, too.

Reflect on your possibilities for joy and love each day. Honor those possibilities and have gratitude for them.  What can I do today to bring more joy into my life?

Be grateful for your physical health and your beautiful spirit. Be grateful for your family and friends.  Think about your children, neighbors, good friends and colleagues

Above all, be grateful for this very moment. When you feel gratitude, you prepare the way for more healing and peace.  You are alive, so live today!

The use of gratitude is not to deny you your overwhelming loss and the need to mourn, but to help you through the grief journey….consider if gratitude and grief can work for you.

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3 Wonderful Tips to Support a Grieving Heart:

IMG_4428

Image by Rawbert via Flickr

 

1. Reminisce. Continue to reminisce with your friend about his or her loved one’s life. Sharing fond memories is a wonderful way to provide comfort. Remember, talking about the deceased will not hurt or upset the person grieving. In fact, it is just the opposite, your friend will appreciate that you are talking about their loved one. Please know that it is okay to talk about someone who passed away, and it is helpful to use the deceased’s name in conversations.

2. Be yourself. Speak in a way and behave in a way that is natural for you. Continue the same relationship you had before: close friend, acquaintance, friendly neighbor, or work buddy. Offer help only if you are able to follow through, and in a way that makes sense in your life. Can you drive the carpool? Offer to drop off a meal? Mow the lawn once a week without even knocking on the door? Take the kids on a play date for the afternoon?

3. Learn about and understand grief. To understand what you friend is going through, do your best to learn about grieving. Everyone grieves differently, and there is no timetable on grief. By having an understanding of the process, you will have more compassion and be able to support your friend. Being a friend to the grieving will not always be easy. Your friend has changed and will continue to change as he or she journeys through grief. Your gift of support, however, will always be remembered and cherished by your friend.

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On loss….

    • This is so unfair …
    • Why has this happened to me….
How will I ever go on….

These are some of the thoughts you may have during grief, despair, or hopelessness. It is natural to experience these emotions….it only shows you are human.

Over time, however, you will encounter a choice…..you can choose to dwell on your pain, or instead you can choose life.  I think your loved one would want you to choose LIFE.

Yes, you have the ability to recover after a loss. Look into your inner self to bring up your faith, strength and resilience.  And in your corner, you will have the love of the person you lost.  And on those hard days, he or she will be holding you up, when you think you can’t go on.

You are stronger and braver than you know……


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