Throughout November many people have been posting daily what they are thankful for and I think it is an excellent habit to remind ourselves what we need not take for granted. To tell those around us how much we care, to express appreciation for the little things. These are so important when the world around us can feel quite negative much of the time. One thing I would add for this time of year, and all year, is a sense of empathy. Please try to recognize what others are going through because while some of us are celebrating with loves ones, others are alone and hurting.
The holidays can be a season of caring and giving. But it can also be a constant reminder of the voids. If someone has lost a loved one to death, the holidays can be especially difficult because the traditions have to change. Who’s going to cook the turkey if Mom’s gone? How am I going to deal with all of these toy commercials and Santa if my child has died?
Divorce can also make the holidays different and difficult. If your ex has the kids for the holiday it can be a very lonely day without them. It can bring up resentments and hurt feelings and trigger depression and drinking, sleeping or other unhealthy behaviors to cope.
Being single when someone wishes they weren’t can also be saddening this time of year. Not having that special someone to share a moment with makes some people feel gloom.
I bring these things up as a reminder. For those of us not dealing with these issues, a reminder to be conscientious of those who do. Don’t assume they have someone to spend the holidays with. Don’t gloat about what you are doing. And invite people into your circle during this season who might not have a place to go. For those who are struggling, try to plan ahead for the difficult days. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for support and make plans for tough days instead of dreading them. Know yourself. If you know the holiday will be hard, make plans to do something different or special, honoring the one you lost or helping others who are also in need.
The holidays are not happy for everyone. But maybe we can help make them less miserable for those who are dreading them.
The Serenity Prayer asks a higher power to help the person accept what they cannot change and let go, change what they can, and to be able to see the difference between the two. In grief therapy, patients are told their feelings are “normal” and eventually the final stage is acceptance and they start living again. In 12-Step programs they say Let Go and Let God. On a bumper sticker you might see Teach Tolerance. At church we are encouraged to forgive others and forgive ourselves. The messages are all around us. So why is it so hard? (more…)
If tragedy happens and you don’t want to deal with it, you don’t have to. Not now anyway. But if you think avoiding it will make it go away, you’re wrong. Grief waits. It’s like parking a broken down car in your back yard and thinking when you come back to it it will be fixed. It won’t. And as a matter of fact, if you leave it there long enough it will rust, and the tires will go flat. It will be even harder to fix than when you parked it there. In grief, you have to go through it to get beyond it. If you wait, it won’t be easier. (more…)
“everything can change.” So sang Don Henley in 1989. Little did we know then how everything could change on one day in September, 2001. And I bet all of us know someone whose life changed in the blink of an eye. One minute you are cruising along, taking the little things for granted, and then out of nowhere, a car accident, or a terminal diagnosis, or the death of a loved one. We all know this can happen; people say “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow” as a reminder to not sweat the small stuff. But how many of us have our ducks in a row?
By no means am I suggesting a fatalistic attitude. Like it could all end tomorrow, so let’s throw caution to the wind and walk on the wild side! But I AM asking, what if it did? Would you be ready? What would be your regrets? The sad part of my job is hearing stories of families struck by tragedy. The lists of coulda, woulda, shouldas. If only I hadn’t yelled. If only we had bought life insurance. If only I had spent more time with my family instead of working so much. (Isn’t there an old country song that says no one has a tombstone that says ‘I wish I would have worked more’?) But from these stories I have learned an important lesson. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. Get your paperwork in order, tell people what your wishes are, and live each day to the fullest.
Talking about what should happen if you are gone suddenly is not morbid, it is responsible. When people are grieving the last thing they need is to be stressed by the details of financial burden. And death can certainly be expensive. But also, does someone know your online billing passwords? Can someone find your loved ones through your cell phone if you are unconscious? Do your children know your greatest wishes for them? Do you have unresolved business, grudges that someone assumes you still hold but really you don’t, you’re just too stubborn to approach them?
Tim McGraw sang Live Like You Are Dying. Why DON’T we? Why don’t we eat dessert first? Why do we save up six weeks of vacation and never take off work? Why do we wait until we are retired to travel and then feel too tired to do it? Who in your daily life do you take for granted, or have something unsaid that you would regret if you never got the chance to say it? Why don’t we sit with the people we love and eat chocolate chip pancakes for dinner and reminisce about the good ole days? Give me one good reason! Because you won’t be able to later, when the opportunity is gone.
Carpe Diem. Seize The Day.