For many people, the holiday season is a special time of year marked by celebrations and gatherings with family and friends. For those struggling with the death of a loved one, the holidays may be a difficult time full of painful reminders that emphasize their sense of loss. The ornaments, mementos, and gifts that most people associate with holiday cheer often renew the grief of a person who has lost someone they love.
“The upcoming days hold many expectations, emotions and experiences for those of us on a journey through grief,” said Verdo Werre, McNary-Moore Funeral Service Manager. “Stepping away from the busy activity of these winter holidays to honor a loved one may bring peace and comfort.”
On Tuesday, December 9, 2015, the local Funeral Home provided offered a healing light of opportunity during their annual Candlelight Memorial as Rev. Ken Edwards officiated the service.
Dozens attended the service that took place at the McNary-Moore Chapel in Colusa.
Attendees took part in singing hymns, taking a moment of prayer, and memorializing the names of loved ones as candles were lit.
The Holiday Memorial Candle Lighting Ceremony began fourteen years ago as a way to help families grieve their loss.
“Grief is a private thing,” Werre said. “A lot of times people do like to communicate about what they are feeling, and this way they may do so.”
Often, friends and family members of those affected by a loss are unsure how to act or what to say to support their grieving loved one during the holidays.
Hospice professionals, who are experienced in helping people deal with grief and loss, offer some suggestions:
■ Be supportive of the way the person chooses to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow traditions; others may choose to avoid customs of the past and do something new. It’s okay to do things differently.
■ Offer to help the person with decorating or holiday baking. Both tasks can be overwhelming for someone who is grieving
■ Offer to help with holiday shopping. Share catalogs or online shopping sites that may be helpful.
■ Invite the person to join you or your family during the holidays. You might invite them to join you for a religious service or at a holiday meal where they are a guest.
■ Ask the person if he or she is interested in volunteering with you during the holidays. Doing something for someone else, such as helping at a soup kitchen or working with children, may help your loved one feel better about the holidays.
■ 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.
■ Be willing to listen. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping some cope with grief and heal.
■ 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.
“One of the best ways to help those who are grieving during the holidays is to let them know you care and that their loved one is not forgotten,” said J. Donald Schumacher, PsyD, president and CEO of National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Lending an ear and holding a hand can be one of the greatest gifts we can give.”
If you are facing grief during the holiday season, here are some tips to help you get through the holidays:
■ Acknowledge that the holidays will be different, and they will be tough.
■ Decide which traditions you want to keep.
■ Decide which traditions you want to change.
■ Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
■ Light a candle in your home in memory of the person you’ve lost.
■ Make a donation to a charity that was important to your loved one in their name.
■ See a counselor. The holidays are especially tough, so this may be the time to talk to someone.
■ Send a holiday card to friends of your loved one who you may regret having lost touch with.
■ Remember that crying is okay. The holidays are everywhere and who knows what may trigger a cry-fest. Volunteer in your loved one’s memory.
■ Watch the food. Don’t deprive yourself, but be careful that you don’t let food become your holiday comfort.
■ Watch the booze. Alcohol can become a fast friend when we are grieving.
■ Splurge on a gift for you.
■ Enjoy yourself! The holidays will be tough, but there will also be love and joy. Remember, it is okay to be happy – this doesn’t diminish how much you love and miss the person who isn’t there this holiday. Don’t feel guilty for the joy you do find this holiday season.