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Grief amid holidays


December 13, 2013 Letters to the Editor

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One might think the first holiday season after the death of a loved one will be the hardest, but from my experience the second holiday season can actually be more painful. Protective early numbness had worn off and the ache deepened.

If your grief feels worse the second year, don’t think you are going crazy. What you are feeling is normal and natural. I hate to say this, but it gets harder before it gets better. Future holidays will get better year by year.

Since my first Christmas without my son Johnny, I have never been quite as enthused about the holidays as I once was. There is a sense of pain that hangs over the excitement others feel. But, to quote a cliché, life does go on.

If you’ve recently lost a love one, this year you might decide to do something different to make room for the pain.

Have another family member host the holiday dinner; keep your gift-giving simple; or donate to your loved ones’ favorite charity. Unless you have small children, adults will understand.

You may need to pick and choose which events you are able to attend. For example, if you choose to go to a friend’s New years eve party, you might want to slip out before midnight.

I am truly blessed to have good friends who include me in their holidays, so with a smile on my face and a song in my voice, I am able to enjoy these days.

Part of my healing journey has involved reaching out to people. I volunteer as a victim advocate, volunteer in the prison, do pet therapy for Children and Youth, and help at Katie’s Kitchen. Volunteering for me has been and still is heartwarming and healing. I have met many wonderful people along the way.

Comfort a person who is also hurting, not with a long story of how sad you are that Aunt Tilly died, but just offer a hug — sometimes that’s all the comfort a person may need.

To this day, people say to me, “I don’t know how you got through your son’s death. My answer is: I pray that you never have to find out, but I will never get through it.”

You just learn to process the pain differently. There is never a time when you will say “Ah, now I have finally completed my grief, or “Now I have healed.

We are forever changed by the death of a loved one. Hopefully we become different , more compassionate, more appreciative and more tolerant people. Healing is a lifetime process.

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