The Importance of Making Space for Grief During Holidays

We are days away from plunging headfirst into the rough and tumble holiday season.  

Thursday is  Thanksgiving and I don’t know about you, but it seems that once I eat the turkey and dressing, the clock moves faster and the days crowd one another in a race to Christmas and the end of the year.

So I want to take a minute to think about how important it is to make and maintain space for grief during this busy season.

You have to do it.  

I know, I know-where to fit it in between family gatherings, social engagements, mandatory office parties and children’s pageants?

If you don’t, though, the grief will out itself one way or another.  

So may I offer the following practical suggestions for this upcoming holiday season?

  • Start each day (whenever possible) with a few minutes of alone time.  Let those moments be the buffer between you and the day ahead.  Don’t allow your mind to wander to your “to do” list.  Sit.  Sip the hot beverage of your choice and let silence soothe your soul.
  • Don’t overschedule your days (or nights!).  Exercise the option of saying, “no” to things that are not really important or necessary.  Just because you have done it every other year doesn’t obligate you to do it this year.  Exhaustion always magnifies despair.  
  • Try to balance busy days with not so busy days.  The surest path to meltdown is traveling in the fast lane.
  • Let other people take on responsibilities-especially if they offer- and even if they don’t.  Asking for help when you need it is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness.
  • Keep a pad and pen on your nightstand and jot down any random thoughts that you don’t want to forget before bedtime.  There is no sense worrying about something you can’t address until morning and writing it down means you won’t forget it.
  • Make use of online everything.  Have gifts sent directly to recipients.  Order groceries for pick up.  There are many ways to make life less hectic and more enjoyable.  If you don’t know what’s available in your area, ask friends and family.
  • Plan for at least one recovery day for every large gathering/party/meal you have to attend.  Some of us need two.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.  If you are used to having matching everything, perfect centerpieces and gourmet meals it may be hard to lower your standards.  But if there is one thing I have learned since Dominic ran ahead to heaven, it’s that the companionship of those we love trumps anything else.  People rarely remember how you set your table but they will remember who sat around your table.
  • And if your heart is too tender to do anything but hold on and hope this month passes quickly, then do that.  You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations.  Sometimes that’t the best we can do and that is OK.

Grief requires so. much. energy.

And you can’t spend the same energy twice.

So make space for grief in your holiday plans.  

bereaved parents have one job during the holidays to survive

Letting Go of Extra Responsibilities

I’ve always been quick to volunteer.  

Often the “yes” flies out of my lips before my brain has engaged.

That lands me in all kinds of trouble.

But I’m trying to learn to bite my tongue until I can take stock of just how taking on another responsibility may push me over the edge.

I’m walking on a razor thin rim around the pit of despair-especially this time of year and it doesn’t take much for me to fall in.

depair

I know that other people think, “Well it’s been nearly five years!”  And I understand that to them, it seems like plenty of time to get my act together, to figure out how to live with child loss, to grow strong enough to shoulder whatever burden they think I have left and just get on with life.

But what they don’t understand is that this journey requires constant adjustments, has unending and new challenges and truly is uphill all the way. 

There’s no coasting-it’s ALL hard.  

walking-up-a-hill

Think for a minute how overwhelmed you are with all the activity, demands for baked goods, invitations, shopping, cooking, visiting, managing family responsibilities, hectic schedules and every thing else that the holidays entail.

Now multiply that times one hundred or a thousand. 

That’s what it feels like for me and other wounded hearts trying to juggle ongoing pain and the holidays.

I want to participate.  I want to be the old me that could say “yes” to every request.  But I’m not that person anymore.

I will do what I can do.  

I will say “no” to what I can’t do.  

And I won’t feel guilty for preserving my energy and my sanity.  

When coping with difficult disappointment or stress, it’s wise to let go of what you really, truly don’t need. Give some of your responsibilities, if you can, to someone else. Delegate what someone else can do. Say ‘no’ to new assignments or projects that aren’t absolutely necessary, and again, don’t feel bad about it. Don’t only accept help, ask for it — and be specific.

After all, when the storm has passed and you’re feeling stronger, you’ll be able to pick up those responsibilities again.

~Steven Earp, Storms of Life

Repost: Zero Points for Pretending-You Can’t Hide Your Heart

Oh, sometimes I think I’m clever enough to do it.

I edit my words, costume my body and fix my face so  I can act the part.  But truth is, I never manage to fool anyone who looks closer than my plastic smile.

I can’t hide my heart.

And I don’t know why I try-I don’t get points for pretending.

There’s no prize at the end of this long road for the one who makes it with fewest tears.

Read the rest here:  Zero Points for Pretending: You Can’t Hide Your Heart

Repost: Anger or Sadness? Or Both?

We live in an angry society.

Social media is full of rants about this and that.  Television blares raised voices shouting over one another in what passes for news coverage.  T-shirts are emblazoned with one-liners intended to provoke others.

We tolerate and even embrace anger as a legitimate emotion.

Yet we rarely make room for mourning.  We hide our tears.  We shame those who don’t hide theirs as “weak” and “soft” and “cowardly” or worse.

Read the rest here:  Anger or Sadness? Or Both?

 

Repost: Healthy Boundaries in Grief

As a people-pleasing first born who hates conflict, giving in has always been  easy for me. It’s only later that I wish I hadn’t.  

So for most of my life, setting personal boundaries has been challenging.

But in the aftermath of child loss, healthy boundaries are no longer optionalthey are necessary for survival.  

So what are healthy boundaries?

Read the rest here:  Healthy Boundaries in Grief

Repost: Can I Just Be Me?

It’s tough leading in a  dance you never wanted to learn, isn’t it?

Yet that’s what bereaved parents do every single day.

We carry our own burdens and also shoulder the burden of others in social encounters, working hard not to step on toes.

Sometimes, it’s just too much.

If I don’t mention Dominic, no one else does and that disappoints me.

If I do mention Dominic, the response is often sympathy or rushing to another topic.

Which is also disappointing.

If I smile, then I’m “so much better’.

If I tear up, then I’m “not over it yet”.

Read the rest here:  Can I Just Be Me?

Discombobulated

Yep.  It’s a real word.  

And it sounds just like what it is-mixed up, disoriented and confused.  Like a kid spun around with a blindfold playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey at his five-year-old birthday party. 

That’s me.

I depend on routine, habit, regular workflow patterns to help me remember what I need to do and when.  So if something (or a bunch of somethings!) interrupt my tired old footpath through the day, it confuses me.

not to brag but i can forget what im doing

I’m confused.  

This summer has been full of random life events that guaranteed I couldn’t lean into my dependable routines for support and comfort.

So I’m winging it-more or less.  

Actually more of the time it IS less but who’s checking?

stressed is desserts spelled backwards

Anyway, it’s been a good reminder that I’m not in control and that what absolutely MUST be done always manages to get done.  And if the other stuff falls by the wayside, then it wasn’t nearly as important as I once thought it was.

I need to be reminded. 

Because it’s easy to be frustrated over things that aren’t worth the effort, to get my priorities mixed up and let myself fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent and ignore the supremacy of the important.  

tyranny of urgent sticky notes

Speaking of which, I think I’ll take a break, go outside and get some fresh air.  

The vacuuming can wait.

And the laundry,

and the dusting,

and the….

goat i must go my people need me