Santa will soon arrive and festivities are well under way. Ah… the Christmas holiday season. What do you automatically think of? Celebrating, tree trimming, family, friends, holiday decor? Not so much for the one who grieves, mourns and bereaves. And yes, they do have separate meanings. Attainment of being merry, the process of taking pleasure is, at times, unavoidably interrupted by the sorrows that befall and to be merry seems remote.
Personally, my thoughts are immediately taken to a friend, her sister died 4 years ago. Another friend, his wife died a year ago or the young lady I was recently introduced to lost her mom three weeks ago, while another lost her mom only few days ago. All in varying depth and stages of grief. And although I have put closure on my grief, (Tending to My Wounds), there remains a bit of struggle with the holidays and my mom died 9 years ago.
Whether our grief is current or that from long ago those touched by loss or death do not necessarily find the holidays of happy celebration or to be in the jolliest of moods. And how can they be. For when struck with a loss or that from when one dies celebrating the joys of any holiday can be one of the most difficult things to do, the last thing one wants to think about, let alone participate in. Life is not as it was for one who experienced a loss or a death and celebrating becomes a secondary thought.
Before you start inviting those who grieve to join in with the family parties and festivities, to decorate the tree or gift shopping, first take notice of where the one is with their grief - is the loss or death recent or one from long ago. That might be the first clue as to whether or not one is ready to follow traditions or change their traditions.
Although the traditional holiday hoopla might be helpful to some, I suggest based on those who have shared stating that it might be best to put all that involves YOUR holiday at the bottom of the list when it comes to those that grieve, no matter the degree. They might be more willing to partake if a bit of consideration is given beforehand.
Remind yourself, holidays for the grief-stricken will not be the same. Thoughts and actions may not coincide like they might under normal circumstances so the gifts for those who grieve : do your best to meet them where they are in their grief. Grief sadness softens though never fully dissolves. Let them know you care. Mean it, follow up and follow through. Let them know you are thinking of them and reassure them you are there for them.
Be Attentive. Grief has a way of muddling the mind. Forgetfulness or just not up to the task, a griever may not tend to all that needs tending to - physically, mentally or emotionally, even spiritually. It can be difficult to ask for help, they might not want to be a burden or just lack the motivation or energy to ask. Take notice of what might need to be done. Let them know what you can do and will do.
Remind yourself to Listen. We all have a story to tell and the one who grieves more then likely wants to talk about their grief or talk about their loss or the person who died. It does help lessen the pain. Do not discourage their recollection or remembrance of pleasant memories or rehashing unpleasantries. Encourage, for the telling of their story and retelling their story is a way of processing and accepting the death. While they talk your role is to listen silently with minimal input. Do not offer the comments on what they should or could have done or presently do. Please think before you speak, act or react.
Certainly circumstances differ though how we choose to feel, handle and contend is what determines if peace, happiness and contentment will prevail. This applies to anyone, whether you journey through grief or not. Mixed among every individual is some emotion working either as a positive or a negative tinkering with our attitude. Our attitude will make or break our day, it can alter who we are making us either a joy to be around or a curmudgeon.
So, as you gift those who grieve, mourn, bereave be mindful. When given the opportunity to allow one’s grief to be noticed and recognized you gift them with the intention to be hopeful as they journey through their loss. And isn't that we look for in all we do, to be hopeful?