Joy in Sadness

Coping with Grief and the Holidays

For those of us who have lost family or friends in the past year, the arrival of the holidays can be especially overwhelming. In the midst of sadness, celebration is painful.

We may feel ambivalent about long-standing traditions - memories have become bittersweet. Below are some suggestions for holiday survival, collected over the years.

*  Have a family discussion about which customs to keep, suspend, and new traditions to begin. Children are especially rich resources - be sure to includce them.

*  Consider giving to someone else.  Volunteering at a shelter or nursing home can provide a feeling of togetherness when you feel alone. Do something in memory of the person who died like plant a tree, give a toy to a needy child, or donate food for a family in need.

* Have a different kind of tree, or decorate it in a differernt way.

* Find comfort in small ceremonies, such as decorating the grave with holly or branches from the Christmas tree, or writing a note to buy, burn of float away at the beach.

* Throughout the holiday sesason, light candles in memory of the person who died.

*  Hang their stocking and fill it with notes from family members. Read the notes aloud. Or, fill with stocking with candy to share.

* Celebrate on Christmas Eve rather than Christmsa Day.

*  Attend a different church or temple for a service that is new.

*  If you find you're feeling happy, allow it!

The holidays, like annniversaries and other signifant dates, seem insurmountable at first. Painful as they may be, though, they serve a function - they reinforce that death is permanent and no amount of wishing will bring our family back.

Once we survive the holidays, we often emerge with an incrased understanding of the reality of our loss, which may well be the beginning of the road to healing. We do survive, and weith some smalll grace, we not only survive, but we create new meaning and hope in our lives.

                                                                                                                             - Beverly Hatter, LICSW

Reprinted by permission of "Cross Currents" the newsletter of Bridges, a Center for Grieving Children in Tacoma.