I read the article below by Charlene Mason-Reese with personal interest. Yes, I am among the ranks of so many baby boomers that struggle with seemingly increased grief during the holidays. After too often writing obituaries and getting ready for funerals between my mom, uncle, mother and father in law during past Christmas and New Year holidays, only the Lord gets us through.
I found Charlene’s article refreshing and insightful. Her tips actually are helping me to be there in “real time” for others who get sad like me. And the truth of the matter is that sometimes we are helped when are are sensitive to the pain of others.
SADNESS AND WINTER HOLIDAYS
by Charlene Mason-Reese MSW, LCSW
Gaiety, joy, good wishes appear to dominate the weeks from Thanksgiving until New Year. People want to be happy, families want Thanksgiving meal to be full of good memories, because family members have not seen each other in sometime. Their mouths are already tasting the comforting foods they know will be served; stuffing themselves, telling stories of remember when…..
The watching of the Thanksgiving Macy Day Parade, marking the end of fall and seeing Santa bring in the winter season, along with the holiday cheer. In the United States, Santa brings in remembrances of many holidays, even for those that don’t celebrate Christmas. To name a few Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Felice Navidad, and there are others that author does not wish to discount, but these days bring feelings of joy and grief. For some because the realization of their loss that may occurred yesterday or ten years ago. It brings the challenge of what does one do with those feelings? “I cried it out, right?” There are no more tears to cry. No one wants to hear about my sadness, they are talking about what bargains they are going to pick up Black Friday.
The stress of Black Friday, a holiday all its own and the special meaning it is given, because each night the newscasters tell us how many shopping days there are until Christmas, now that tightens the noose, because that is a reminder of all that has not been done. This does not take the people into the season over the edge, because the joy that is anticipated of watching the children open the hard fought for gifts, the long lines stood on. The looking and waiting for parking spaces, on to have someone else pull in it-remember it is time for good will to all men
There are segments of the population that all of this happiness, the season especially !….makes their world seem even dimmer – that is the people who GRIEVE for what they have lost.
The loss may have been recent or may be one that other people feel they should have gotten a handle on, the death occurred so long ago. It is difficult to be in around people who are openly expressing their happiness and then there is the person who feels as though their heart has broken and the pieces are free floating. As the person who is experiencing these feelings, you also have feelings of guilt. You don’t want to take away the joy others are feeling, but you really can’t understand how the world is continuing as normal, while your universe has shattered. Who can you go to, people may be tired of hearing about your loss, but don’t they know, don’t they see that earth has stopped, it is no longer revolving around the sun.
Family, friends are you aware of the grieving person in your midst? Are you aware that they are sitting at the table – you see them, but they see an empty seat where the deceased used to be, even if it is occupied? Yes, others at the table may also feel the absence of the departed, but grief is unique to each person, it depends on many things. For one, it depends on the relationship of who died: spouse mother, father, child, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or someone who was a confidant.
The person at the table who is suffering the acute grief has burden of not showing the feeling, but putting on a mask and responding, “I’m okay, everything is fine”.
How do all of you get through this “happy season”?
One important way is to remember the person, where appropriate. Talk about the deceased, they are a part of the “remember when stories”. It is important not to act like they never existed or it is a “no no” to bring the name of the individual up in conversation.
Think of the good times, how the individual enriched the lives of those around them, how having him or
her in your world for whatever amount of time they were in your life outweighs the sadness that is legitimately felt at this time. The loss and sadness may be so overwhelming right now, but it can get better. If we permit it the deep painful sadness will become more of a shadow, a fog. The memory of the love one keeps the best part of them alive. As long as they are remembered there is a terminal death, because they will always be with us, we will feel the love.