Hope for the Holidays
The holidays are stressful for most of us, even when we aren't grieving the death of someone we love. Added on top of the normal holiday stress, grief can make the holidays even more difficult.
Families often tell us how anxious they are about the approaching holidays. The first holiday season after the death of someone you love can feel overwhelming. Open communication between family members is very important because each of you may have different ideas about how to celebrate or not celebrate the holidays.
Our Family Support Services counselors have put together some suggestions for you and we hope you find it helpful as you make your way through the next several weeks.
The Griever's Holiday Bill of Rights
Keep these Bill of Rights in mind as you navigate the holiday season:
- You have the right to say, “time out” anytime you need. Time out lets us blow off a little steam, step away from the holidays and have a “huddle."
- You have the right to “tell it like it is." When people ask, “How are you?” you have the right to tell them how you really feel, not just what they want to hear. You also have the right to smile and say you’re fine because telling them how you really feel isn’t worth your time. Some people will never understand anyway.
- You have the right to some “bah humbug” days. You are not a bad person just because you don’t feel like singing holiday songs all day.
- You have the right to do things differently. There is no law that says you must always do the holidays the same way you have always done. You can send 10 cards instead of 100 - or no cards at all. You can open your presents at somebody else’s house. You can do without a tree. You can have pizza instead of ham or turkey. You can be creative and start a new tradition. (Our website has some new tradition suggestions.)
- You have the right to be where you want to be, at home or a relatives’, any city or state you choose. There’s no law that says you must stay home or must go some place.
- You have the right to some fun. When you have a day that isn’t so bad and you feel like doing something for fun, then do it. You don’t have to be afraid of what someone else may say if they see you laughing and having a good time. Laughter is every bit as important and healing as tears.
- You have the right to change direction in midstream. Grief is unpredictable. You may be all ready to go somewhere or do something and suddenly you are overwhelmed. When that happens, it’s okay to change your mind.
- You have the right to do things at different times. You can go to services at a different time than you have in the past. You can serve a meal at a different time; go to bed at a different time.
- You have the right to rest, peace and solitude. You don’t need to be busy all the time. Take a nap whenever you need one. Take time to pray and to meditate, to recharge your spirit.
You have the right to do it all different again next year. Just because you change things one year and try something different does not mean it is written in stone. Next year you can always change it back or do it yet another new way.[Adapted from Bruce Conley's The Griever's Holiday Bill of Rights.]
Continue reading below for more information and suggestions on coping with the holiday season including information on child grief, creating new traditions and more.
General Grief Articles
William Worden calls the steps in the grieving process tasks because he says that grief is “hard work”. You can ignore your grief, minimize your grief, busy yourself with the distractions of the season and fall victim to it, or you can approach the holidays with intention. The following is a description of Worden’s Tasks of Mourning with suggestions of how to use them to help you soothe your holiday heartaches. "Using the Tasks of Mourning to Soothe Holiday Heartaches"
This article from Open to Hope also includes some helpful ideas as you move through these challenging weeks ahead. "Helpful Tips for Managing the Holidays"
The Hospice Foundation of America emphasizes the three C's: Choose, Communicate and Compromise. Learn more by reading "Three C's for Holiday Grief".
Children, Grief and the Holidays
Many families struggle with how to help the children in their lives understand the loss, grieve and recognize the holiday season.
“Helping Your Child Deal with Death” is an article from KidsHealth.org with some simple and practical advice on helping children cope with the death of someone they love.
And this chart provides information on how children understand death and express grief depending on their age and developmental level
Child Grief and Development - 39.0KB
Bonnie Carroll’s article offers some additional ways to support children as they grieve during the holiday season: "Dealing with the Grief of Children during the Holidays"
The Dougy Center, a nationally known center for grieving children and families, created this guide for families to help support children during the holiday season. "Getting through the Holidays"
New Traditions and Suggestions
Below are some articles from websites we often recommend to donor families.
- The First Thanksgiving from Modern Loss
- Surviving Thanksgiving from What's Your Grief
- How to Enjoy Thanksgiving without a Loved One from the Huffington Post
- Griever's Guide to Spending the Holidays Alone from What's Your Grief
- Helping Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season from The Center for Loss
New Years Eve and into the New Year
- Alternatives to New Year's Resolutions from What's Your Grief
- New Year's Resolutions for Grievers from What's Your Grief
- Seven Grief Strategies for the New Year from TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)
The holidays will not be the same this year and it might feel strange trying to follow the same traditions this year. Your celebration of the holidays this year might include some new rituals and traditions. Here are some suggestions. It is important to realize that what you decide to do this year, is not what you have to do forever. It is just this one year and next year you can do something different.
Candle lighting Ritual for Holidays - 52.4KB
Preparation is key when it comes to coping with the holiday season. The more you can prepare and think ahead of time about the upcoming holidays, the easier it could be for you.
Take a few minutes and think about what traditions are meaningful to you and is it important to incorporate them this year. Sometimes we have traditions during the holidays that may or may not be ones we like to keep. Take this opportunity to evaluate what you feel you "have" to do and what you feel you can "stop" doing. Download our "Holiday Job List."
Trying to do accomplish all the items on your Holiday “to do list” on your own will completely bring your stress to another level. It can be helpful to also think about which people can be supportive of you and which situations might be difficult for you. Create your "Personal Holiday Plan".
It is expected that you will have moments during the holiday season when you are feeling sad and depressed. Thinking ahead about ways you can comfort yourself or be comforted by others can be helpful. Spend some time now considering "Things I Know Will Help Me When I'm Down".
Lara Moretti, Manager of Family Support Services shares insight on how the Holidays can be a very difficult time for families who have lost a loved one. http://www.donors1.org/second-chance-blog/2012/11/12/coping-during-the-holiday-season/
Of course, if you would like to speak to someone in Family Support Services, please call at 1-800-366-6771 or email us.
Threads of Love Donor Quilt
Explore the online quilts to view the quilt squares provided by the loved ones of those who died and gave the gift of life. The actual quilts are available for display in public places throughout the region to promote donor awareness.
End of Year PR
Record Year for Gift of Life!
Gift of Life broke two national records for organ donation in 2017. We are so thankful to all donors and donor families who have selflessly given the "gift of life." Read our full statement here.
Donor Dash – April 15!
SAVE THE DATE! The 23rd Annual Donor Dash will be SUNDAY, APRIL 15 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art! Registration is now open.
The 2018 Donor Dash will feature 10K and 5K runs, a 3K walk, and a Kids Fun Run. This special event attracts people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels.