Helping Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Helping Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season

by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Holidays are often difficult for anyone who has experienced the death of someone
loved. Rather than being times of family togetherness, sharing and thanksgiving,
holidays can bring feelings of sadness, loss and emptiness.

  • Love Does Not End With Death

Since love does not end with death, holidays may result in a renewed sense of personal
grief—a feeling of loss unlike that experienced in the routine of daily living. Society
encourages you to join in the holiday spirit, but all around you the sounds, sights and
smells trigger memories of the one you love who has died.
No simple guidelines exist that will take away the hurt you are feeling. We hope,
however, the following suggestions will help you better cope with your grief during
this joyful, yet painful, time of the year. As you read through this article, remember
that by being tolerant and compassionate with yourself, you will continue to heal.

Talk About Your Grief

During the holiday season, don’t be afraid to express your feelings of grief. Ignoring
your grief won’t make the pain go away and talking about it openly often makes you
feel better. Find caring friends and relatives who will listen—without judging you.
They will help make you feel understood.

• Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Psychological Limits

Feelings of loss will probably leave you fatigued. Your low energy level may naturally
slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. And lower your
own expectations about being at your peak during the holiday season.

• Eliminate Unnecessary Stress

You may already feel stressed, so don’t overextend yourself. Avoid isolating yourself,
but be sure to recognize the need to have special time for yourself. Realize also that
merely “keeping busy” won’t distract you from your grief, but may actually increase
stress and postpone the need to talk out thoughts and feelings related to your grief.

• Be With Supportive, Comforting People

Identify those friends and relatives who understand that the holiday season can
increase your sense of loss and who will allow you to talk openly about your feelings.
Find those persons who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings—both
happy and sad.

• Talk About the Person Who Has Died

Include the person’s name in your holiday conversation. If you are able to talk
candidly, other people are more likely to recognize your need to remember that special
person who was an important part of your life.

• Do What Is Right for You During the Holidays

Well-meaning friends and family often try to prescribe what is good for you during the
holidays. Instead of going along with their plans, focus on what you want to do.
Discuss your wishes with a caring, trusted friend. Talking about these wishes will help
you clarify what it is you want to do during the holidays. As you become aware of
your needs, share them with your friends and family.

• Plan Ahead for Family Gatherings

Decide which family traditions you want to continue and which new ones you would
like to begin. Structure your holiday time. This will help you anticipate activities, rather
than just reacting to whatever happens. Getting caught off guard can create feelings of
panic, fear and anxiety during the time of the year when your feelings of grief are
already heightened. As you make your plans, however, leave room to change them if
you feel it is appropriate.

• Embrace Your Treasure of Memories

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. And
holidays always make you think about times past. Instead of ignoring these memories,
share them with your family and friends. Keep in mind that memories are tinged with
both happiness and sadness. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If your memories
bring sadness, then it’s all right to cry. Memories that were made in love—no one can
ever take them away from you.

• Renew Your Resources for Living

Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life. The death of
someone loved created opportunities for taking inventory of your life— past, present
and future. The combination of a holiday and a loss naturally results in looking inward
and assessing your individual situation. Make the best use of this time to define the
positive things in life that surround you.

• Express Your Faith

During the holidays, you may find a renewed sense of faith or discover a new set of
beliefs. Associate with people who understand and respect your need to talk about
these beliefs. If your faith is important, you may want to attend a holiday service or
special religious ceremony.

As you approach the holidays, remember: grief is both a necessity and a privilege. It
comes as a result of giving and receiving love. Don’t let anyone take your grief away.
Love yourself. Be patient with yourself. And allow yourself to be surrounded by
loving, caring people.

About the Author
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., is a noted author, educator, and grief counselor. He serves as Director of
the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, and is on the faculty at the
University of Colorado Medical School Department of Family Medicine.

Dr. Wolfelt is known for his compassionate philosophy of “companioning” versus “treating”
mourners. Among his many publications are the books Healing Your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas
for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season, The Journey Through Grief, Healing Your
Traumatized Heart, The Mourner’s Book of Hope, and Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for
Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart. Visit www.centerforloss.com to learn more.

Help Keep Families Connected

 

At PinesFunerals we have seen first hand through this crisis how families with loved ones in Senior Living and Nursing Facilities have not been able to be together. We can only imagine how hard this must me, so in an effort to try and keep families connected we are collecting new and used iPads.

These tables will be reconditioned and distributed to the various facilities as a way to connect families through video chatting.

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– The staff at PinesFunerals

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Ten Freedoms for Using Ceremony During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

If someone you love has died during the novel coronavirus pandemic, you have come to grief in an exceptionally challenging moment in history. You may have been separated from your loved one as they were dying. You may have been unable to view or spend time with the body after the death. You may have been prevented from having the full funeral you wanted because of gathering and travel restrictions. And people who care about you may not have been able to be near you to support you in your grief. These and other pandemic-related barriers to the cultural grief rituals we rely on may be making your grief journey especially painful.

I am sorry you have been so deeply affected by this hardship.

As a grief counselor and educator, I know that ceremony helps mourners through the early days and weeks of their grief and can also support their healing in the months and years to come. Funerals are for the living. When funerals are personalized and rich in elements that are meaningful to friends and family, they help mourners set off on a healthy mourning path.

But if you couldn’t have an immediate funeral because of the pandemic, or if the ceremony you were able to have felt incomplete or unsatisfactory, I want you to know that you can still use ceremony to help you and others who are mourning this death. I hope these ten freedoms provide you with affirmation and ideas.

  1. You have the freedom to embrace ceremony.

The funeral does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It also helps provide you with the support of caring people. It is a way for you and others who loved the person who died to say, “We mourn this death, and we need each other during this painful time.” If others tell you that funerals are unnecessary or old-fashioned, don’t listen. They simply haven’t been educated about all the reasons why humans have relied on funerals since the beginning of time.

  1. You have the freedom to hold an immediate private ceremony.

If you were not able to have a bedside ceremony, funeral, committal, or any form of service shortly after the death, you can choose to have a private ceremony right now. Ask a spiritual leader, officiant, family member, or friend to help you plan a simple online meeting using Zoom, Teams, or another tool. You can also hold a small candle-lighting ceremony at your dining-room table.

  1. You have the freedom to plan one or more ceremonies to be held later.

Especially if you couldn’t have the ceremony you wanted at the time of the death, you can still hold one or more memorial ceremonies in the months to come, when gathering and travel restrictions are lifted. Remember that a delayed ceremony is a much healthier choice for your family than no ceremony.

  1. Yes, you have the freedom to have more than one ceremony!

Ceremony helps grieving people heal. And multiple ceremonies are especially helpful in supporting families through complicated loss circumstances such as yours. For example, you might have an online ceremony now followed by a full ceremony and gathering later this year and then a smaller graveside or scattering ceremony on the anniversary of the death. You will find that each time you hold a ceremony, your grief softens and integrates into your ongoing life a bit more.

  1. You have the freedom to plan a ceremony that will meet the unique needs of your family.

Keep in mind that any ceremonies you plan can and should be customized to honor the unique person who died as well as meet your unique family’s needs and wishes. There are no real rules about what you should or shouldn’t do, and your ceremony can be spiritual, religious, or secular—whatever you wish.

  1. You have the freedom to feel all of your feelings about the circumstances of the death as well as any ceremony difficulties you may be having.

Because of the challenging and limiting circumstances in which your loved one died, you may be experiencing heightened anger, anxiety, guilt, regret, helplessness, despair, and other difficult feelings in addition to your normal grief. Remember that your feelings are naturally complicated because the situation is complicated. Talking out your feelings regularly with a trusted listener will help.

  1. You have the freedom to make use of memories.

You may feel “stuck” in this pandemic moment, unable to carry out all the actions you would like to in honor of the person who died, but you still have the freedom to lean upon your memories. During this dormant time, gathering photos, video clips, memorabilia, and life stories will help you acknowledge the reality of the death and honor the life that was lived. Sharing memories with others will help everyone as well. Then, when it comes time to have a memorial service in the coming months, photos and memories will already be prepared.

  1. You have the freedom to reach out and connect.

The isolation you may be experiencing as a result of the pandemic is not conducive to healing. You need and deserve the support of others during this challenging time. Others mourning the death need support as well. So, even if you can’t gather in person with others right now, you can still reach out for and accept support. Talk openly and honestly with the people in your home and be as empathetic as you can. To communicate with others outside your home, video calls are probably the best substitute for face-to-face conversations. Voice calls come second. After that, emails, texting, and social media work too. And don’t forget the power of the handwritten letter! The point is to stay connected as much as possible AND to be open and honest in those communications about whatever it is you are feeling or struggling with at the moment.

  1. You have the freedom to ask others to be involved in any ceremonies you plan.

Funeral and memorial ceremonies can have lots of moving parts and may require a good deal of planning. Many hands make light work. You can ask several people to help with the planning and carrying out of tasks. In fact, ceremonies in which many people take part are often the most meaningful to everyone involved. You do not need to do this alone.

  1. You have the freedom to move toward your grief and heal.

When it comes to grieving the death of this precious person, you may feel somewhat in limbo during the pandemic. An immediate ceremony will help you feel a degree of progress. In addition, you can move toward your grief by acknowledging and expressing your feelings (see number 6, above), doing memory work (number 7), and reaching out to others (number 8). Giving attention to your natural and necessary grief in all these ways is essential.

Thank you for entrusting me to teach you about the ten freedoms for using ceremony during the pandemic. Despite the restrictions, I hope you will find ways to use ceremony to befriend your grief and begin to heal. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Godspeed.

About the author

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., is an author, educator, and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty of the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Wolfelt has written many bestselling books on coping with grief, including Grief One Day at a Time and First Aid for Broken Hearts. Visit www.centerforloss.com to learn more about grief and loss.

 

A Personal Message Means So Much, Moore

Show the immediate family you care with a personalized note on your loved one’s obituary page. Your special message will be placed on a Care Card which will be displayed during the services for the immediate family to read and appreciate.

To submit your personal message, visit your loved one’s obituary page and select the personal message option on the guestbook.