By Barbara McIntyre
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — The holidays are approaching fast. As beautiful and as spiritual the holidays can be, when someone you love has died it can be one of the most difficult times of the year. This is why it becomes important to find ways to honor that loved one while still celebrating the season.
Too often, family celebrations commence with that empty chair and no one will speak a word about that person. This can lead to increased anxiety, sadness and exhaustion. Instead, you might: set aside a few minutes during dinner to ask people to share a memory; bake your loved one’s favorite desert and acknowledge this is why you made it; have family members make ornaments in memory of your loved one; light a special candle in honor of him/her during the season; or give to his/her favorite charity.
These simple acts will relieve a lot of stress for everyone as well as help you to remember your loved one. After all, the word “mourning” comes from the sanskirt word that means “to remember.”
When tears come, allow the process. The University of Maryland did a study of tears in grief and concluded that these tears contain stress chemicals that if left inside the body can lead to physical illness and depression. By allowing the time for tears, you create opportunities for laughter as well.
In addition, if you are grieving this season, self-care becomes more important. Your immune system is already taxed from grief, so do not attempt to add on a lot of extra chores to prepare for the season. Try to simplify. Give gift cards instead of presents, bake only one or two varieties of cookies, get extra rest, eat healthy, find time to exercise and gather support from friends and family. Practice kindness toward yourself by avoiding “shoulds” and realizing that you do not have to “get over your grief.”
Grief is a process you go through, and a difficult one. By taking extra care during the holidays and limiting the demands the holidays can bring, you will allow yourself the strength to get through your grief. Your loved one would want all of this for you.
About the author: Barbara McIntyre, Ph.D., of Traverse City is a a board certified art therapist and licensed professional counselor who specializes in grief and loss issues; on the web at: http://www.northernmichiganarttherapy.com/
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