Saturday, November 22, 2008

Coping with the Holiday when Your Loved One is Missing

Our Thanksgiving memories will live on through the generations, whether we are all physically together or not. They are rooted in the heart and soul, and no storm of life can take them from us. We pull them out each year, along with our holiday tablecloth and napkins, and as we bow our heads, we feel the clasped hands of our missing loved ones joining ours for one more Thanksgiving around the old oak table.

Coping with Holidays
It is not wrong for you to feel angry, sad, or overwhelmed by impending holidays. Because you are not able to control these changes, you are bound to have feelings that conflict with what you used to feel during holidays. If others around you are not feeling the same, you may feel further alienated. What used to make you happy and joyous may now make you feel sad and angry.

Ten Thoughts on Coping
It is always difficult to live through holidays in the aftermath of intense tragedy. For victims and survivors, holidays are often marked with pain and anguished memories. What, in the past, may have been a time for family gatherings and celebration will be a time for missing loved ones and a sense of loss.

Plan ahead
Have a backup plan
Embrace the feelings - both good and bad
Realize it doesn't have to be the best holiday ever - just get through it!
Find something different to do
Go to a buffet instead of fixing the big meal
Leave town
Take the pressure off of yourself - don't fake it
Have reasonable expectations of yourself and others
Add something to your tradition that honors your loved one - light a candle
Create whatever holiday you want

Surviving That First Holiday Season After a Loss
For people who have lost a loved one, through death, divorce, or even relocation, big holidays throughout the following year often prove painful and difficult. Rituals that brought joy in years past serve instead as stark reminders of missing loved ones.
"Holidays can reawaken the grieving process," says Marianne Wamboldt, MD, Director of the Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders at National Jewish Medical and Research Center. "It can be extremely painful. But there are ways to cope, things you can do to get through the holidays and even to find comfort."

Coping with Holiday Grief
At holiday time, many people are dealing with loss and are often caught in a dilemma between the need to grieve and the pressure to get into the spirit of the season. Holidays or not, it is important for the bereaved to find ways to take care of themselves. The following guidelines may be helpful:

Suggestions for filling your holiday loss and tears with celebration and love:
Express yourself through artwork.
Begin your holiday dinner with a minute of silent prayer and a toast in their honor
Send up a balloon(s) with messages and prayers to your loved one.
During the meal ask the question, "What comes to your mind when you think of _________?", and share memories with those who surround you.
Plant a tree or a special plant in their honor in your garden or in your home.
Create special Christmas ornaments for your tree and hang a stocking in their honor.
Write a letter or even keep a journal of your thoughts.
Light a candle(s) in their memory.
Place a single flower or bouquet of flowers that your loved one cherished as the centerpiece.
The "Shames" or head candle in the Hanukah celebration can be in honor of your loved one
Look at pictures (or display pictures) from past holidays shared with your loved one. View videos, audiotapes and any remembrances, which reflect on the wonderful times you experienced together.
Design a quilt with the memories you have
Write a brief history of the ups and downs you have experienced in the past year and place it into a Christmas stocking or some memorable cache that you can add to yearly.
Play a favorite song
Create a sacred alter with photos and treasures where you can sit and reflect.
If you vacation in a special area that you used to go to with your loved one, do something special in honor of them.
Consider volunteering for an organization affiliated with your loved one;s illness, hospice or a caregiving program to help others through your own experiences.
Vounteer to help feed the homeless over Thanksgiving & Christmas.
Volunteer to read or spend time with the elderly in nursing homes, hospitals or to read and spend time with children who have terminal illnesses in hospitals.
Donate gifts in your loved one's name. This is even more special when you donate in memory at their birthday, a special anniversary, etc.
Offer a scholarship in a loved one's name.

Remembering at the Holidays
The principle that we should keep in mind is: they may not be here any more, but they are still here.

For those with loved ones still missing, not knowing can be the worst grief of all
OF ALL the agonies that an outrage creates, the worst is not knowing. It is almost beyond that of loss and grows in the silence of an unanswered telephone.

Our hope is that this information is helpful to you as you approach the holidays. Remember — grief is both a necessity and a privilege that comes about as a consequence of the ability to give and receive love. Don’t let anyone take your grief away from you during the holiday season. Try to love yourself and allow yourself to be embraced by surrounding yourself with caring, compassionate people!

Please join us at Peace4 the Missing
Missing Persons Awareness and Support Network


Maggie's Rose said...

Remember your loved one

Remembering your loved one in a special way can be comforting. Keep your loved one's memory alive by:

Making a donation to charity in his or her name.
Having a moment of silence, a prayer or a special toast in your loved one's memory.
Placing a special ornament on the tree that symbolizes your loved one in some way.
Hanging his or her stocking with everyone else's.
Writing notes to your loved one and placing them inside the stocking.
Telling stories and sharing memories about your loved one.
Serving his or her favorite foods.
Showing home movies or looking through old photo albums.
Playing your loved one's favorite music.
Visiting the cemetery.
Engaging in religious or spiritual observances.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sara Huizenga Lubbers said...

Thank You, Susan...that says so much of you...that you would take the time and effort to leave such kind words, I truly appreciate it...xoxoxoxo

Anonymous said...

It's a desperate Xmas for me this year. Six months ago, my darling wife passed away with cancer. This is my first Xmas without her. It's awfull! We used to do everything together. Cook, trim the tree and the house... Now, I can't get myself to do anything of that as each time I start I remember her and start crying and crying... Unfortunately there's nothing I can do to ease this grief... I wish I was with her now, wherever she is. I love you kitten!

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous, your wife will be thinking of you also in heaven, just know that you are being loved in return this christmas day by both her and by God. Im so happy for you that you found such a loving partner in life. It`s understandable that you wish you were with her now, but what would she want you to be doing today? How would she want you to be feeling... HAPPY and smiling remembering good times and taking each day at a time? I will say a prayer for you, I wish you peace of mind and comfort this christmas. with love and best wishes. xxxx from joanne