Holidays can be empty after a loss

November 23, 2011|Hospice Helps

Special to The Herald-Mail

For most children, the excitement begins building just after the Halloween candy has been culled through and lost its flavor.  

Even before Halloween, the stores begin building toward the Christmas frenzy. For most adults, life picks up pace and the whirlwind of getting "ready" puts a new intensity and pressure on everyday life. The initial preparing for Thanksgiving soon gives way to the forces driving us to Christmas.

However, for those who have suffered a recent loss (and that word "recent" is defined differently by each person), a sense of emptiness and dread is the building emotion.  

The light-hearted planning, decorating and shopping that once occupied this time of year has been replaced by the early darkness of late fall, a hollowness that creeps into daily activities and a coldness that reflects early winter in one's soul.

Taking a new look at these holidays can help create a new way to approach the season. It also can lead to hopeful planning for the new year to come.

First, take time to face those dreaded feelings square in face. Ask yourself honestly, "Why am I feeling this way?" Then compare those emotions to how you felt immediately after you lost the one you loved.  

Gratefully acknowledge the distance you have come since then — the first night you were able to sleep through the night, the first time you felt like taking a short walk, the first time you were able to go out to dinner and the first gathering you enjoyed. You are making progress, albeit slow. You are rediscovering simple joys of life. You are facing your loss and progressing on the path of healing.

Secondly, take time to look to the future. Choose to do just one thing over the holidays to move forward. Perhaps you can plan a new tradition that you hadn't done with your loved one — maybe find a family who needs help making their holiday a bit richer.  

Plan one thing to accomplish next year and spend some quality time researching how to accomplish it — consider taking a class, starting a new hobby, or joining a few friends on a wonderful vacation. The plan need not be large; plan some smaller things for your calendar the first two weeks of January.  

Hospice of Washington County is here for anyone facing these difficult times of the approaching holidays. Personal counselors and support groups are here to help guide you.

Contact us at 301-791-6360; this call could help make this holiday more than you thought it could be.

Let us help you make this season a bit lighter.

Shelley J. Steiner is marketing and community relations director of Hospice of Washington County.

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