Holidays are loaded with emotional issues at the best of times. When you're dealing with the deep wound of grief, they can be almost unbearable. But it is possible to connect with others without getting overwhelmed. Grief Counselor Ken Druck, Executive Director of the Jenna Druck Foundation in San Diego, offers these tips on preserving your balance.
Set Your Own Terms to Form Healthy Boundaries
Rather than succumb to others' expectations or your own memories of past holidays, "Think about what you want, what will leave you feeling like you did what you needed to do," Druck advises. "Let your heart lead the way."
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Tell friends and well-wishers what you need-and don't need-from them, as often as possible, and if you can,
in advance: before a family dinner or gathering. For instance, others may be reluctant to mention your loved one's name, for fear it will upset you, but you may very much want to hear it. If that's the case, let them know. "Don't get angry or wait for people to screw up," Druck advises. "Just tell them what's helpful to you and what's not."
Seek Empathetic Peers
Being with people who are going through or have been through a similar loss can be a powerful comfort. "Getting that kind of support can take the anticipatory dread out of the holidays," Druck says.
Attend Support Events in Your Communities
Local hospitals, hospices, churches, and synagogues often sponsor holiday events and activities aimed at people spending their first holiday season without a loved one. Often these events are programmed with children in mind, providing an option for parents who question whether they should observe the holidays at all.
Love and Remember, Every Day
A holiday is not the only chance you have to cherish the spirit and memory of a loved one. "Grieving takes a lifetime," Druck says. "Spread your love over the rest of your life."
Check-in With Your Friends and Be Receptive
"Even the most well-intentioned initiative can turn out wrong," Druck notes. "Always check to see what's needed. Or, give choices: 'Here's what we were thinking of doing-would that be OK for you?'" Let the person know you're there.
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