Thursday, December 25, 2008

Facing Loss Through the Holidays--Part 3

If You Are the One Recovering From Loss:
• Seek out a support system. I never would have made it without my girlfriends who called or emailed to check on me. I remember less about what they said, and more about their quiet vigil of presence. Support groups are available in most every state through ministries like GriefShare. My GriefShare group had mostly widows, though. I recommend groups that share similar loss.
• If you are the grieving person, and your friends offer to come and do specific chores, watch a young child while you nap, etc., then consider letting them. It allows them to express their grief through beneficial works. If you are grieving, chances are they are too. And you will start to feel the weight lifting off your shoulders as you allow friends to help.

• If others do not want to acknowledge your missing loved one, don’t force it. But also don’t allow others to tell you how to grieve. Your grief is yours. Remember that women grieve differently from men, so be easy on your spouse.

•“Closure” is just a latch on the neighbor’s fence. If others tell you that you need to bring closure to your loss, it is only because they haven’t faced your kind of loss. They do mean well. Don’t allow meaningless “happy affirmations” or clichés to ruin your day.

• Augustine’s “Dark Night of the Soul” seeped in every evening at 8:30 for my husband and I, so we learned to go to bed early to “beat the demons” to bed. Rest is a necessary ingredient to recovery from loss.

• Memory loss can be caused by the body’s natural response to shock, a literal washing of the neurons with a numbing chemical generated by your body. Yes, the Creator thought of it all. But memory loss and feelings of numbness can make you feel as if you’re losing your mind. You’re not. You’re normal.

• It’s fine to give yourself permission to distance yourself from social settings that you know typically create stress for you. Picture yourself in that place in advance. You are the best judge of what you can and cannot handle.

• If your loved one has passed unexpectedly during the holidays, you may want to consider asking a friend to remove their gifts and donate them to charity in honor of your loved one. Our favorites are assistance to AIDS victims and a women’s drug treatment center, but there are homeless people who need gifts, elderly folks, shut-ins, and families in your church who can’t afford to buy gifts. Again, let this be your choice and not something you’ve been pressured to do.

• Avoid mind-numbing solutions to grief such as over-medicating or alcohol. Eventually the effects of those things wears off and you still have to face the loss. If you take anti-depressants under your doctor’s advice, then you and your doctor can decide what is healthy for you.

• Make yourself a cup of your favorite hot drink, start a fire in the fireplace, or light a candle and then journal a letter to your loved one and express what you are feeling through the holidays with them gone. Written expression is helpful for triggering natural coping mechanisms.

• Money can be mismanaged and disappear quickly if someone isn’t minding the till. Allow a trusted friend, pastor, or family member to help oversee your finances through the first year of grief. Grieving widows accustomed to a spouse who oversaw the finances can wake up one day to find the lights shut off or the home going into foreclosure just because you were too numb or inexperienced to keep vigil over your pocketbook. Let others help.

• By making the choice to commence facing my journey of grief right away, the unbearable heaviness didn’t linger as long as it does in denial. So embracing was the best choice for me. When I felt the heaviness seeping in, I mentally confronted. I even held conversations with it—“Oh, it’s you, Grief. Come on in. We’ll talk.” I put feelings to words. Today it feels like . . . It’s different than last week when I felt . . .It’s worse. . . It’s better. . . This anniversary date is killing me . . . When will I stop crying? I had a dream about you. . . Today was amazing.

• Here is one suggestion that I’ve not seen anywhere else, but after asking several grieving parents about this, many agree with my husband and me about the problem caused by music; perhaps it’s worse for parents suffering the loss of a child. Song lyrics are written out of an artist’s emotions. When my emotions were raw and I was still suffering shock, songs about heaven, love, loss, even Christ’s suffering and death sent my emotions into a nosedive. Most radio song themes depict love or pain and so does church music. My husband experienced the same anguish. We both love music. He and our two sons are musicians, so our home is full of music. We kept the radio and CD player off for many months. It was another of those temporary changes we made in order to keep our emotions on an even keel. I visited the neighborhood music store and found recordings of beautiful peaceful music that had no recognizable tune and no lyrics. Sound therapy is soothing. We often fell asleep listening to the soothing sounds. Time eventually healed us in that regard and we were able to enjoy our music again.

Sorrow is a sacred time in a family’s life. It is the season that changes all other seasons. Respect and honor include the practices of sensitivity and patience. Gathering to weep is as important as gathering to laugh. During the holidays, make time for both.

♥If you are suffering loss and don’t have someone to call, please call the Hickmans and we’ll be glad to talk you off any ledges or offer you our own experiences through loss. Tel. 704-655-9390.

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break." William Shakespeare

“And the people who recover are the people who admit, and are able to talk about it and to share it.”
H. Norman Wright

“Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lam. 3:22,23