Surviving the holidays

AT RANDOM: Today as you open your newspaper, you’ll see the many faces of Christmas...

Today as you open your newspaper, you’ll see the many faces of Christmas:  Generous and loving community members who share their time, talents and funds with those less fortunate; children smiling as they receive that one special gift, Santa appearances (he’s just about everywhere these days), and much more.

However, there is one page in today’s paper that will resonate for some of you more than anything else.

The Tree of Memories  is a place to pay ode to that cherished loved one who has left us on this physical plane, but is never far from our thoughts.

For those whose loved one has died this past year, or any year, Christmas isn’t always a holly, jolly good time, but can be filled with loss and pain.

There are many triggers that can spur grief this time of year. Maybe it’s that empty place on the mantel, where his stocking would have hung, or her favourite recipe, holiday movie or decoration, or simply the falling of snow.

You never know when it’s going to hit you – those tears that fill your eyes and the hole that grows bigger in your rib cage.

Loss is loss, no matter how or when or why it happened. There’s no going back to the way things were except in your memories. It can be a tough pill to swallow, especially at this time of year.

Recently, my friend, whose mother died a few years ago, and I went to a special event at Vernon’s Hospice House, where my father spent the last two months of his life earlier this year.

Entitled Holiday Transitions, the service provided an opportunity for us, the bereaved, to find support over the holidays.

Conducted by North Okanagan Hospice Society grief and bereavement counsellor Panadda Kosakarn and social worker Sheila Odney, the service served as a light in a darkened tunnel.

A quiet, warmly-lit room greeted us, as helpful words were spoken, before we were given the opportunity to write our loved one(s)’s name on an ornament to put on the tree.

One of the handouts we were given was excerpted from Theresa A. Rando’s book, Grieving: How to Go on Living When Someone Dies and included some helpful suggestions to manage all holidays and anniversaries – not just Christmas.

In it was this summary on how one might feel at this time of year:

“Because holidays are supposed to be family times, and because of the extraordinary (although unrealistic) expectation that you should feel close to everyone this time of year, can underscore the absence of your deceased loved one more than any other time.

“Recognize that your distress about the holidays is normal. Countless other bereaved people have felt, and do feel, as you do right now.”

One of the strongest feelings I have felt is a sense of guilt for not wanting to celebrate the holidays as I have done in the past – with endless parties, and visiting, performances and indulgences (save for all the chocolate and baked goods I seem to be inhaling right now).

To be honest, I have participated in some of those events this year, for my children’s sake, but what I really want is a quiet Christmas – with no pressure or expectations.

I want to relax in the comfort of my home, looking at the sparkling lights on the tree, or ski down a mountain or around a trail, inhaling all that is good about the world. I want to remember the good times, the fun times, and the people I miss the most.

And if you’ll indulge me, I want to place a few names on that tree this year:

– For Dad

– For Lou

– For Tim

– For Don

Always and forever.

 

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