Published: Nov 26, 2012 10:49 AM
Modified: Nov 26, 2012 10:50 AM
Dad died August 2. His death wasn’t unexpected, but the loss was still a shock.
A 20-year resident of Chapel Hill, many of his friends saw his obituary in the this paper and contacted us to express their sympathies. Afterward, we spent the next couple months getting his affairs in order, settling mom in a smaller place, and starting the process of learning the “new normal” – life without dad.
Now the holidays are upon us, and we almost feel like we are starting over learning another new normal – holidays without him. Dad had been in decline for several years, so much of our grief was occurring even before he died, but this year will not be an easy one for any of us in the family. Furthermore, we know we are not the only people in Chapel Hill who are trying to find a new normal after losing a loved one.
If you have lost a family member or friend you may find yourself dreading the holiday season. Social gatherings, family traditions or other obligations may leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, none of us can simply check out for the next six weeks. So what can we do?
Experts from a variety of fields have provided a number of practical tips. Here’s an example: Make a point of talking to people whom you know have already been through this. They can give you an idea of what to expect regarding typical emotions and emotional triggers. They can help you understand what to do when you find yourself “ambushed” by the memories of holidays past.
Another idea: Make a healthy plan for the holiday season. Make decisions in advance about traditions, meals, decorating, gift-giving and the like. One expert, Dr. Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge lost her husband a few years ago. She says, “Planning does help you to have a little control, even when you feel totally out of control.”
Another expert says it is important to be open and honest with the people around you. Tell them what you can handle and what you can’t. Don’t just put on the happy face if that is not what you are feeling. Doing that can create an even bigger burden. Instead, be open, honest, and gracious. Remember, your friends want to help. Sometimes they just need you and me to tell them how.‘Surviving the Holidays’
Where did I find these kinds of tips? I found them in a two-hour seminar called “Surviving the Holidays”. It offers all kinds of practical tips for those who are experiencing the holidays after losing a loved one. And thanks to my church, Christ Community Church here in Chapel Hill, you can experience these same insights and many more.
The seminar will occur Saturday, Dec. 8, from 10 a.m. to noon in Chapel Hill. It is open to all, regardless of denomination or spiritual affiliation. In addition to receiving practical tips from the experts, participants will have the chance to share with other grieving people who understand what you are going through. Pre-registration is required.
If you would like more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Please don’t feel like you are alone this holiday season. Join us at “Surviving the Holidays.”
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