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Friday, January 1, 2010

The Holidays and Bereavement - Joy, Memories and Tears

Laughter can change to tears in a moment for those who are coming out of grief after losing a loved one. The holidays are a time of gratitude, hope, and new beginnings. But those who are bereaved, even many years ago, can be surprised when unexpectedly something triggers the twinges of the old grief. Those who are widows and widowers know the feeling.

In the midst of the celebrations something touches off a memory and suddenly there is the sharp pain of missing the loved one. One's chest squeezes, one's throat chokes, and a few tears, or a waterfall of tears, seems to come out of nowhere. It could be in the grocery store, at a party, or driving by a familiar scene.

Other people, who have not experienced deep bereavement and these waves of grief that well up unexpectedly, might wonder what they did to cause this or what is wrong. Not understanding, and feeling uncomfortable around this, they may distance themselves and flee the vicinity. This rejection adds to the pain of the grief. Being around people who have experienced it and understand it, such as a Hospice Grief Group, gives people a place where they know they are safe.

Our society often treats grief like it is a stigma. Hospice helps those who are grieving during the holidays by providing special counseling and events to celebrate the lives of those whom we loved dearly and who have passed away. Hospice is a place where those who are grieving can talk, cry, remember, and share with others these complex mixed feelings.

Those of us who have experienced some deep bereavements know the wave of grief passes and we bounce back. It's important to just accept this as a part of grieving, a part of life, and as something that is normal.

My husband, Frank, passed away from cancer when I was 44, and a dearly loved gentleman companion, Bill, passed away in the early part of 2009. I was thankful that neither suffered for long, although they each had chronic illnesses for a long time. Those who have not lost a husband or wife may have experienced other painful bereavements. Each bereavement is unique and there is no way to say what type of loss is harder.

Turning to our spiritual beliefs is the greatest source of comfort we can find. We are all interconnected spiritually. Love is eternal and life is eternal.

When our friends feel the sudden pangs of grief we can help by listening, unafraid of their tears, and knowing it is a natural part of grieving. We know that even many years later something can trigger the grief waves, and it is not something to fear.

Often people who've experienced deep bereavements of dearly loved ones say although these waves of grief become farther apart, they never totally go away. The holidays in particular are times when we may miss our loved ones the most, but we know that life goes on and that we each have a mission.

Grief does heal with healthy grieving, but most people say the unexpected pangs or sharp twinges can still occur years or even decades later.

But much of society will be uncomfortable and flee our presence when we are grieving. Reminders of death and dying are something people usually wish to avoid. We too, do not wish to dwell on it, but grief has no time limit, although the severity grows less with time.

One of the lessons I learned from group sessions at Hospice was to allow the tears, because holding them back will create a bigger flood later! The wave of hurt when something triggers the grief pangs is more apt to pass if I don't fight it. Then moments later I might be once again remembering my loved one but also celebrating the happy times in the present moment.

Readers, if you have a story about a bereavement and getting through the holidays I invite you to tell your story in the Comment section below this post. Or, you can email it to me, Kristi, at and I can put it in a post, anonymously if you wish. Thank you and best wishes for the upcoming year.


jacobsoliva said...

It was a really cool post to read about.I recalled my holiday trip to spain.Which I have sponcered from my first earning.It was a truly memorable time spend with my family.
holidays in spain

Sheila said...

Excellent post ! Excellent...
My own personal widowhood, has been the most difficult journey of my life & yet, my faith in our Lord & Saviour, has truly carried me the entire time...
Blessings to you & yours...
Blessings !

ladyd said...

Your post reminded me recently of a "moment" I had with mom. I was in her room in the evening, and as I was looking at her, I allowed myself to linger a moment and look deeper into her aged blue eyes. The tears began to come, and I sat down in her wheelchair and sobbed for a few minutes. As I gathered myself together, my husband came and found me, he saw I had been crying, and hugged me for a minute. No words were spoken, none were needed, he knew what I was feeling, it was a moment. I do not allow myself those moments very often as I would not be able to stay strong emotionally to take care of mom. I do not look forward to the days when I will have no choice, because the grieving process will begin.