Well, it’s my week to write the blog, and my assigned topic is social and emotional related to the upcoming holiday season. My first thoughts were writing about the importance of relationships and/or reducing stress during the holidays. Upon thinking more about that, I decided to be a bit more vulnerable and share my thoughts on a topic that is seldom discussed, especially during the holiday season. After all, who wants to be bah humbug when everyone else is singing ho, ho, ho?
The past week there were so many posts in my Facebook feed for prayer requests due to ill health, injuries and accidents.
On Tuesday evening, my heart broke as I read of a recent cancer diagnosis for a sweet little guy.
Yesterday, while I was traveling to a client visit, I received a text message that my co-workers father passed away.
Unfortunately, serious illness, accidents, tragedies and death happen every minute of every day. While these events bring sadness to loved ones any time of the year, it can be especially difficult during this “magical season of joy.”
Although, I haven’t experienced a tragedy or death during the holiday season, I know how challenging it can be to find happiness during the “magical season of joy.” As many of you know, almost seven years ago I was diagnosed with an invasive, aggressive breast cancer a few weeks before Christmas. While everyone around me was busy making their lists and checking them twice, I was mentally preparing for a mastectomy to get rid of “Naughty and Nice.” The “joy of the season” was all around me—but I didn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel it. Instead of deciding what to make for Christmas dinner, I was deciding do I want one breast removed, or two? Do I want breast reconstruction? Or not? Exactly how far had cancer progressed? Would this be the last Christmas I would be celebrating with my family? So many questions, with so few answers.
For my family and me, besides our faith…our healing began with others caring.
Whether it is a tragedy, accident, death or unexpected medical crisis, one of the best ways to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care.
If you have a loved one who is grieving this holiday season, here are a few additional ways to show you care:
- Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to change their rituals. Remember, there is no right way or wrong way to handle the holidays.
- Offer to help the person with baking and/or cleaning. Both tasks can be overwhelming for one trying to deal with raw emotions.
- Offer to help him or her decorate for the holidays.
- Offer to help with holiday shopping or give your loved one catalogs or on-line shopping sites that may be helpful.
- Invite the person to attend a religious service with you and your family.
- Invite your loved one to your home for the holidays.
- Help your loved one prepare and mail holiday cards.
- Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holiday season. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at soup kitchens or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
- Donate a gift or money in memory of the person’s loved one. Remind the person that his or her special person is not forgotten.
- Never tell someone that he or she should be “over it.” Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
- If he or she wants to talk about the deceased loved one or feelings associated with the loss, LISTEN. Active listening from friends is an important step to helping him or her heal. Don’t worry about being conversational…. just listen.
- Remind the person you are thinking of him or her and the loved one who died. Cards, phone calls and visits are great ways to stay in touch.
If it is you, who is grieving this year, give yourself time to heal and allow others to care for you during this season. Spending some time alone is fine, but isolation isn’t a healthy way to deal with grief. Allow loved ones to share in your sorrow. It took me several years after my cancer diagnosis before I could find delight in the “magical season of joy.”