Posted on : Sunday November 1, 2009

Dear Counselor:
I lost my husband suddenly last spring. We had been married for over 50 years. This time of the year was always a special time of celebration. Not only did we host the family in our home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but also we would celebrate my husband’s birthday in December. I am wondering how I can make it through the holidays.
Feeling Lost

Dear Feeling Lost:
You are correct to anticipate these special events that are coming up soon. Even though you have had some time to grieve the loss of your husband, the first gathering of a family after the loss of a loved one, special days such as birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, and graduations, and especially holiday seasons bring a renewed sense of loss and feelings that can be overwhelming. The important thing is to remember that you have some control over what happens during these times if you choose to take it. The following four “C’s” of coping with the holidays and special days come from suggestions made by Gilchrist Hospice Care:

Communicate your needs.
If you can, it would be best to sit down with your family and discuss the holidays ahead of time. What are your needs? What can you not bear to do? What can you not bear not to do? There are some traditions that you may want to keep going out of respect for your husband, but there may be some things that are not emotionally or physically possible now. There also may be some new traditions that you want to create.

Change your routine.
Minor or even major changes can sometimes be helpful. Maybe the holiday celebrations need to be in a new location, for example. This could be the start of a new tradition, or it can be viewed as taking a break for a year with the option of renewing long-standing traditions when you have more energy for it.

Cut back on your activities.
Grief is physically and mentally fatiguing, and can also cause some disorientation or lack of motivation. Streamlining your activity is important. Be selective with the cards you send and minimize shopping trips by giving gift cards or checks. Set limits on the time you commit to social gatherings and leave early if it does not feel good.

Celebrate the memory of your loved one.
Since the word “celebrate” can also mean “to honor,” many people will set aside a special time, or create a special way, of honoring the memory of the one who is no longer there. A special donation, a special picture, or a time set aside to share memories can be valuable ways of giving honor. And remember that it is all right to celebrate and feel good at times. Laughter and enjoyment are important parts of living and can be another way of giving honor to your husband.

Send your questions by e-mail to trodgerson@bcmd.org.

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