Coping With Loss
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Podcast #6: 7 Tips for the Holiday Season
Tuesday, 15 December 2009 05:27
Written by Jami Garrison
Podcast Notes for Episode #6
The article below accompanies the podcast and lists the suggestions given in the podcast.
Listen to the podcast now
then come back and follow up with the tips offered below.
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It's no secret that the holiday season is in full swing. In podcast episode number 6 I offer you my seven tips for handling your grief during the holiday season. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are often some of the most difficult to get through for those of us who have lost a loved one, particularly our mom. Other holidays, such as birthdays or perhaps other special days throughout the year, can also be difficult. The tips I offer here are by no means exclusive to this time of year, and can certainly be adapted to your unique circumstances.
These are my top 7 tips for the holidays:
1) Start with *you*
-- The first thing to do during this time is to recognize and accept the fact that you will most likely have some emotional moments during this time of year. It's understandable - you've lost someone dear to you! If you don't have emotional moments, don't think that you are abnormal, either. We all grieve in our own way. What is key here is to recognize that you could have some very emotional times - prepare your emotional state for this and don't take on more than you can handle. Know your limits and give yourself permission and time to cry/grieve when you need. Also, get plenty of rest and eat a well-balanced diet. Keeping your physical self healthy is important to keeping your emotional/spiritual self healthy as well. Take care of *you*.
2) It's okay to say "no."
During the holidays (and other times as well) we often, especially if you're a woman and mother yourself, take on a lot of extra work such as cooking, baking, decorating, socializing, etc - this in itself can be overwhelming! If your emotions are already stretched thin just thinking about the holidays without your mom, then don't add to your stress level by taking on a lot of work. It's okay to say "no." Don't allow others to dictate what is right for you.
3) Find a new way (or ways) to connect with your mom
. Don't be afraid of changing up traditions or even adding new ones. A while back I sent out some requests for ideas on what others do or have done during the holidays as a tribute, memorial or simply a way to feel connected with a loved one who has passed. Here are some of the ideas I received:
Buy a special ornament for your Christmas tree. This is one that I actually do every year. I started with a special angel ornament each year, but I don't always limit it to angels. a few years ago and this year as well, I bought a "frog" ornament. Frogs remind me of my mom because of a speech she once gave at a retreat. After the speech, which reference kissing frogs, people began to give her little frog figurines, posters and pictures. It was something I always remember. In fact, this year I was shopping with one of my sisters when she spotted a frog ornament. She grabbed one showed it to me and says "for my 'Mom' ornament this year." I immediately said "is there one more? that is perfect! I have to have one too!" In fact there was just two on the shelf, so we both have a frog ornament on our trees this year in honor of mom. As I decorate the tree, too, it adds something special to it as I pull out the "mom" ornaments from past holidays. It makes me feel more connected to her.
Another idea that a friend shared with me is to make a special meal. Here's the story that my friend offered:
"One Thanksgiving we were living with my Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. My Mom was going to cook the turkey for them but was really nervous. Sure enough, she burned the giblets and had no liquid to put in the stuffing. Back then stores were not open 24/7, so Mom had to make do with what she had. Her salvation was a can of chicken noodle soup. She poured the whole can in, noodles and all, into the stuffing for the liquid. They all said, it was the best stuffing they had ever eaten. I was a young girl when this happened, but remember it clearly and I always put chicken noodle soup in my stuffing in memory of my Mother. What's more, everyone in my family always reminds me to put the soup on the list when we are buying groceries for that big day."
Find a local charity that offers a program or programs where you can volunteer or donate in honor of your mom. For example if your mom worked with children perhaps spending time at a child crisis center or reading stories to children at a shelter will allow you to do something to help others through something that she cared about. If she loved animals, you could spend time walking dogs or caring for cats at the local animal shelter.
Another friend offered this idea: "We get votive candles and burn them in memory of loved ones who have passed (we burn them to the socket...about 24 hours) from Christmas Eve to Christmas night."
This is just a small list of ways to connect or reconnect with your Mom, but the important thing to remember is to find something that works for you. What may be okay for me may not work for you. And it shouldn't be something that you dread doing. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it.
Your stress will only worsen if everyone steps around the subject of your mom in an attempt to avoid emotions. It's the "
elephant in the room
" and needs to be let out.
- yes, talk to your mom. I can't tell you how much this one thing has gotten me through some rough times in my life. Since my mother died when I was a teenager, I never really got to have an adult relationship with her. I am often jealous of others who have one of these relationshisp with their mom and can talk to her whenever they feel. So, when I need some motherly advice or just get some things off my chest, I talk to her. Yes, it's often a one-sided conversation, but I am amazed at how often I've been talking to mom - rattling on about one issue or another in my life - when I suddenly get an 'answer' or idea on how to work through the current problem. I do this mostly when I'm driving alone in my car because I can talk out loud and not bother with anyone being privvy to my conversation.
If you've been paying attention to me so far and are still saying to yourself "I just can't 'celebrate' anything." Then
find something else to do that makes you happy
or at least gives you an outlet and way to just be 'you.' If others are going to Holiday parties and exchanging gifts, singing caroles, etc - do something else. Go to a movie you've been wanting to see or hit the ski slopes or simply cuddle up on the couch with a good book. If it's just too much and too overwhelming, then take a step back and don't get pushed into "celebrating" the holidays when it will be too emotionally overwhelming for you. Some times, for some us, we just need to take it slow and one step at a time.
And the final tip I offer here is:
7) Live for today - the here and now.
I'm not saying that you should forget your mom and just move on, but I am saying that today and every day, take stock in what you have and live for the moments that bring you joy. Your mom brought you into this world, loving you and raising you to be as healthy and happy as she could make you. Live for those moments and celebrate the talents and "gifts" that she passed down to you. Take those gifts and share them, cherish them.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you work through your grief during the holidays and, really, any special day where the grief becomes overwhelming. Remember, there is no magic cure and no "one size fits" all when it comes to grief and grieving. Do what works for you - it may take some work - it will take some work, but you can do it. You are unique, one of a kind, but you're not alone.
Some of the tips I listed come from various sources, where you can find additional tips for dealing with holiday grief:
Ways to Deal with Holiday Grief
Support for Holiday Grief
Articles on handling Holiday Grief
Nine Ways to make space in your Grief for Holiday Joy
As always, if you have ideas for future podcasts, including topics and guest interviews, please send to me using the
Additional support for motherloss can be found at the Mom's Halo Forums:
(or click on forums from the main menu). You can also find us on
until next time - keep the memories fresh so the grief can go stale.
Subscribe to the podcast and never miss an episode!
Which do you prefer when it comes to getting grief support?
speaking one on one to a counselor/therapist
sharing with others in a grief support group
posting in an online support forum or group
writing privately in my journal
talking about it with a family member or friend
a combination of the above
I have my own private way to work through my grief
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