"Tis' the season to be jolly." When grieving the loss of a loved one, it is hard to feel jolly or even normal. Yet somewhere in the stories and music of the season people can find a way to rekindle the meaning of the holidays. In Dickens' A Christmas Carol it is the ghost of Christmas past that revisits the joys and merriment of youth. It is a time of gift giving, joyful music and fancy foods. Instead of dwelling on the bittersweet aspect of loss during the holidays, it may be a time to remember in ways that honor loved ones. New traditions may develop that bring comfort as well.
"When we have a death in our families, it is very important to give ourselves permission to change our ritual of celebrating Christmas due to the fact our world is not the same because of our loss," said Joyce Jackson-Stark, bereavement coordinator for the Mountain Grove and West Plains offices of Community Hospices of America.
Following are suggestions to help during the holidays. Not all the ideas are meant for everyone.
* First, do not hang out with Scrooge. Spend time with caring, supportive and nurturing people. Limit time spent with difficult people.
* This year give a gift in honor of a loved one.
* Make a monetary donation to a loved one's favorite charity in their name.
* Make or buy an ornament to remember a loved one.
* Make or buy additional ornaments and give them to family members to hang on their tree.
* Decorating the grave could become a new tradition for the holidays. Bring something from home that has been a part of your holidays together.
* Volunteer to help out at a church service or party for the children. Join a group of carolers or ring a bell for the Salvation Army.
* Try a new food to take to a family, work or church get together.
* Give yourself something.
* Attend a grief support group through the local hospice or church.
* Most importantly, be good to yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise.
* Acknowledging that this holiday season may be difficult while still grieving is the first step. Talk to family members and find out what each one expects to have happen this year. Some may want all new traditions established while others want nothing to change. Make plans before a get-together so there are no hurt feelings.
All the family is grieving at a different rate and will be at various places emotionally. Be patient. Each person needs to find his/her own way to deal with the holidays.
For questions about dealing with loss during the holidays call Community Hospices of America at 417-256-4127 or 800 375-2086 in West Plains.