Talk About Coping With Grief And Loss During The Holidays.

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Talk about Coping with Grief and Loss during the holidays

By Rev. Mrs. Wambui Njoroge, MSc. “My Life will never be the same again.”

Everything changes when your loved one dies. It is not easy to just go ahead, cook, entertain, and celebrate thanksgiving dinner as usual.  Perhaps you are wondering how you can cope with grief and loss through the holidays. This article is for the families who have lost a loved in the past, and especially in recent months.  10 years ago, our son died, and we were forced to do things differently. First, we had a rude awakening to realize that family members, some friends, and attitudes change drastically, but not positive. They did not just change for that year, but for the following 10 years.  Fortunately, we are a people of faith and hope in Jesus Christ. We have had a few people who have stood with us along this journey. Also, early in the grief process, we sought help. We joined a support group close home through www.compasionatefriends.org. This group is for parents who have lost a child of any age. For us this group offered support and comfort. I am forever grateful to the parents who helped me so much. You see, we did not choose these families. Instead, we were forced to be together because of our shared experiences in loosing a child. So, that scripture came alive, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. “(1 Corinthians 10:13-NKJV). Let me share with you 10 Tips of what my family did to cope with grief and loss during the holidays.

10 Tips of coping with grief and loss through the holidays.

Embracing The New Normal

If you have lost a loved one in the past year or so, welcome to the new normal. You did not choose to walk on this journey, rather, you were forced by death. Embrace your new normal, as you intentionally, and deliberately take the next 9 steps.  Tell yourself something positive like: “I am gonna make it! No matter how painful, or hard it seems now.”-Wambui Njoroge. You must keep rising from this pain to embrace your purpose. Keep rising from grief to grace to receive the promise of joy. I can say with confidence that, your heart will sing again. Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Blessed is a word that is derived from grace. Put it another way, God will give you sufficient grace and glory to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and not be afraid. Psalm 23. Tip #1: Embrace this new normal.

Change Your Habits:

There is no way to substitute the person who has died. It is equally hard to accept that your loved one is never coming back. There is that empty chair where they liked to sit in.  Maybe the bedroom is still uncopied.  In some respects, this was especially true for my family. We were a small family of 4, and although we used to have a house full during Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I no longer had the energy to entertain other families, not this time. Thanksgiving is a special family holiday. Our son had picked it as his favorite holiday. Will his seat at the dinner table be occupied again and by who? What do you do?  That first thanksgiving, we changed our 23-year-old habits. We opted to reserve a table at our favorite restaurant that serves Thanksgiving meals. Kaki’s uncle drove from Augusta and joined us. We had a good Thanksgiving Day, and not labor intensive, not expensive either. We gave God thanks for being good to us. That phrase and Christian rhetoric is real, God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good and that is His nature.  We keep on moving forward with new habits. They are not as rigid as the old ones we had followed. We are more relaxed and spontaneous. Tip #2: Change your old habits.

There is no method or time limit for your grief

Grief may never leave you completely. Sometimes, you will feel this unscheduled sadness, as I call it, or the need to cry without warning. Everything around you have a way of reminding you of the presence of your loved one.  Yet in the same family, grief may affect parents and siblings differently. Some seem to move on rather quickly, while others seem like they are stuck in a dark place.   It is no wonder that in the death of a loved one, you felt or are feeling like a hole, a dark cold pit opened in the ground, and you have fallen to the bottom. Americans sometimes say, “You are in the pits. The abyss or in a dark place.” Just remember that there is no time limit and there is no one right way to grief.  In time, each person will climb out of that dark abyss and cold emotional pit. They say that time heals a broken heart. Indeed, with the passage of time, the body, and the mind will adjust to the fact of loss. You will someday come to terms with the finality of death. Though the pain and sorrow are incomprehensible, no one can turn back the clock of time. I have often reflected, “I wish I can take 5 more breaths for my son to live,” but I know it is not possible. Even though in my work with families, and in my ministry tool kit there is the knowledge of death, the thought still breaks through my mind on a beautiful day like today. As sad as it may feel, to you too, the death of your beloved is irreversible. The life of your loved one, the way you knew it ended. All you can do now is to walk through the process of grief. Grief has no time limit, and there is not a one size fits all process. Tip #3: There is no time limit for grief.

Create new traditions: Now that we have new habits, the old ways may not work for life completely changed. It will never feel like or be like the old times.  As a new counselor, I shared with families about loss and grief. I asked, “Can we find a solution for death?” The reality is that death has no solution. It is not the kind of problem that we need to solve.  You must accept to celebrate the holidays without your loved one. This is your new normal and you will have to learn how to go on with life without your loved one. You will need to help your family, and especially children and youth. They watch for cues from parents or adults on how to move ahead. So, out with old traditions and habits, and in comes new ones.  For example, our son did not like to travel during Christmas. Guess what, that first Christmas, we took a cruise to the Bahamas. I was surprised at how much I loved that trip.  It almost felt unfair that we went to the Bahamas without him, but we were forced to change. It was not to disrespect his memory because he had died. Rather, if you change habits and traditions, you must find a reason to give your individual lives meaning. It is important to remember family members that are with you, not just the one who died.  Do the best that you can to grief in a healthy manner. Avoid self-destructive behaviors like alcohol and drug use, promiscuity, impulsive buying, and anything that you know is excessive.  You may want to wait for 12-24 months to make radical changes and major decisions, like moving from State to State, or country to country. The family is vulnerable to emotions, and it is not easy to be rational when you are hurting.  Be patient with the grieving process. When the pain becomes unbearable, instead of self-medicating, get professional help. The most important thing is to give yourself permission to live in the new normal by creating new traditions and new habits thar do not include the one who died. It helps with acceptance and closure. Tip #4: Create new traditions.

Help is available. If you or someone you know is hurting due to the death of a loved one, or one seems stuck in the abyss, that bottomless pit feeling like hell, encourage them to get help as soon as possible. In the US, you can find a recovery support group by location. Type your Zip code at/ www.griefshare.com  This web site is available globally. Specify the country and the nearest city.  Grief and recovery support groups meet weekly in a Church or community recreational center, and most of them do not charge a fee. They are open groups, meaning that one can join in at any time, and leave at will.  Folks maybe too busy to attend to your loss and grief stories. No offence, many do not know so much about empathy as they do sympathy. When your loved one died, you received condolences, sorry for your loss—so many Pole Sanas, Maombi ya mzigo mingi sana., financial contributions, sympathy, and pity. What else can people give you?  When your family and friends tell you to, “get over it. Or get a grip” Forgive them for they do not know what they are saying. They want to help you, but they do not know how. This is the time to seek professional help for yourself.  You have a right to live the best life possible for yourself. Tip #5: Get professional help as soon as possible.

Tell your story.  Be deliberate and intentional about it.When you are grieving a loved alone, you do not need to suffer alone. However, it may help you to feel comfortable talking about issues, with a counselor because one will know what to do. Some friends, when you start talking about your loved one, will try and change the subject.  Or the old lie, “I have a call coming from home.”  Your friend think you cannot tell; they do not want to talk about it. Therefore, it is important to talk with a person who will listen attentively, and one who can point you in the right direction. Talking to everyone in the village is a sure way to delay your recovery.  Sometimes, the village answer is: “Don’t you think you need to move on.”  Therefore, talk to someone who understands loss and grief. The person you talk to will take your concern seriously and point you in the right direction. Many of us start with our Pastors, Ministers, and trusted individuals. That is a good step forward. “In the multitude of counselors, there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).  Can you imagine what a heartless person says?  “Is the death of your…the only thing we will be talking about…” Some words that hurt are better left unsaid. Tip #6: In the multitude of counselors, there is safety.

Purpose to Live: After the loss of a loved one, you keep waking up, telling yourself you were in a bad dream. Only to realize that this is not really a dream. This really did happen, and you must continue to wake up to reality and live one day at a time sweet Jesus… You must find a purpose to live beyond grief and loss. The death of a loved one represents a lost dream.  Worse still, is the death of a spouse. It is extremely hard to process. You were dreaming about the future together, about your children, where to live, what careers to pursue, or where to retire. On a scale of 1 to 100, 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest level of stress, the death of a spouse registers at 100%. At some point in the process of grieving, you will have to give yourself permission to dream again. To have a new dream for this season – this time, it will be your dream.

How do you go on living? A middle school student once asked me.  Mrs. Wambui, “How am I supposed to go on with life without my mom?”  My reply, “That is a really tough question. Let’s see – I replied, “What do you think your mom would have loved to see you do?”  His reply, “She would have been so happy to see me graduate from High School.” Oh, I said, “there is your answer to focus on graduating. You will be so proud of yourself.”   You too, if you can ask the person who died, “What would you like me to do? “Their answer would probably be the same as the one my student gave. “Live your best life now.”  My son was a young man of few words, but full of optimism. He would probably say to me, “Mom, now live your best life possible.” He always finished that kind of sentence with, “I know you can do it. And don’t stop learning about computers…it is the way of life in the future.” God knows, I try to do just that.  Someone reading this article may have lost a child through miscarriage, still born, newborn, or a child of any age. You had dreams for the child…like being the best Mom and Dad possible. The Mom and Dad who prays and supports their child. So, I know it must be very hard for your family. Nevertheless, allow yourself to keep on dreaming. Do not give up hope.   Tip #7: You can dream again. Purpose to Live the best life possible

Faith and Hope: To me, I find that the Word of God as written in the Bible is comforting. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Corinthians 1:3:4. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NKJV). I am sure no one could comfort me; it can only be God who is able to mend a broken heart (Luke 4:18). What I can tell you is that, keep rising from your pain to your purpose. Do not let the death of your loved one keep you from pursing your goals.  There are many types of help that a person can access. If you enjoy recreational therapeutic talking (One of my hobbies), you would probably like to join a grief group for support. It was very helpful to me. Otherwise, individual or family counseling is good too. There are many ways of counseling these days, including Life Coach (near you), tele health, online support groups, text message and Facebook groups, as well as other social media platforms and groups. You can test them, and finally choose the one that you feel comfortable with. Well, I have been a Child & Adolescent and their Families counselor. When I needed counseling, I tried family, and I knew I did not like individual sessions (from Clinical Supervision). Support group is what I felt comfortable with. Tip #8: Choose the type of counseling that you feel comfortable with.

Self-Care: The big holidays are just around the corner. Take good care of yourself. Self-care is very important when you are grieving. Grief is real, and it can be quite stressful. Grief can affect your health negatively, for example, at some stage of processing grief, some people get diagnosed with depression, or social adjustment disorder.  Therefore, purpose to take care of your family. Do what you can every day, even if you take baby steps towards your recovery, do so. Good nutrition, exercise and energy and time management are important. Start and plan early how you wish to spend this season. This is your new normal without your loved one. Sometimes, you want to ask why the sun goes on shinning when you hurt, but it does. Or why does your heart go on hurting so bad? These are legitimate life questions, but there are no good answers. I am taking responsibility to encourage you to grief healthy during the holidays. I cannot promise you immediate relief. The grieving process takes time and patience.  However, with the passage of time, the intense feelings of pain and sorrow you feel do change. From my heart to yours, it will get increasingly better.  Tip #9: Take care of yourself.

Healthy Boundaries are Ok: There is a time and a season for everything. Boundaries are OK. You can say no to some things that you once said yes to. Everything in the community is your business, but is it? Just because your loved one died, does not mean that you must be busy with everyone else who dies. Unless, you are invited to comfort others, you can offer prayers and other types of help. It is healthy to grieve with others but maintain a level of respect towards other people’s grief.  I was curious to know how come Civil Rights advocates are found in every other person’s business when there is a murder of a Black man?  I learned that they do not just pick up their mats and follow news. They are usually invited, perhaps with their expenses paid. Well, it is not your work to be in everyone’s business unless you are invited. Especially if you are in the ministry. Learn how to maintain healthy ministry boundaries in your community of faith.  You may feel that you do not have emotional, economic, or spiritual energy to respond to everything that is going on around you. Feel free to say no – simply put, walk in your lane.  Show empathy, support others, but mind your own business. #10: Healthy Boundaries are Ok.

/From my notes/comments/Email/revwambuifavored@gmail.com

Online Counseling resources/

www.griefshare.com

www.compassionatefriends.org

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