Grieving at Christmas

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Handling grief at holiday time by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy: I am going through my second holiday without my husband and its tough. I have a few friends that are going through similar feelings and I thought I would share some feelings with you. f.

Memory Snap Shot

Memory Snap Shot

There is no time frame to grief. I have known and listened to stories of spouses remarrying within a few months of a loss and then those that never find another mate. My mother was without her husband for forty-eight years. There is simply no rule to the time of healing and adjusting to loss; a tough divorce, moving away, loss of a job or home and of course; death of a dear and close loved one or partner. The rules go out the window. So, each of us have to try to make it through the woods on our own. Creating our own healing time-frame and finding small and large ways to restructure our life patterns to form a new life for our own self. That is why I share with others that their loss and my loss are totally different. Therefore, no comparison is available. But the pain, the loneliness and the unsettling in each of our lives is certainly a bridge of understanding and its shared by all of us walking through those woods.

George's Memory Tree

George’s Memory Tree

This is my second Christmas without my Georgie. Last year, I was in our family home and did the decorating as usual. I used George as my theme…and printed up pictures of him at different times in his life and decorated the tree with a sense of love and joy. I had friends over for holiday dinner and used my china and made my special recipes. I love to bake; so I did my usual baking of Biscotti and gifting it to friends and family. I missed my guy with all of my heart but I went through the motion of festivities because it gave me a sense of security to stick to the plan.

This year; I am not in my home that I shared for so many years with Georgie. I am living with friends for a while and they are too busy to decorate for Christmas. They are not into baking or into any of the many traditions that George and I had taken on to express our love of the holiday season. So, its quiet here. I have time to think back on lots of holidays and reflect on what I want to do in the forward motion of my life. I have time to rest and not do the crazy run around for gifts, food and parties. Its something different for me, not bad, just different. But my heart aches for my guy and our old ways.

I have a dear friend that lost her husband around the time I lost Georgie. She too has moved out of her long time home. She is settling into an apartment lifestyle and is in the process of adjustment, as I am. We share our memories of years of fun and love with our mates and I think it helps both of us…to talk about things…work through things in our minds by sharing.

I would say that having a friend that shares a similar loss in their life to talk to, is very helpful. If that is not something you have in your life; try to find a support group that would fit your own needs. When you can talk about yourself and then help others through their hard time, it really does makes your own pain feel controllable. When you keep all your thoughts and feelings inside and only have an on-going personal discussion with yourself…the pain can and will overwhelm you. Why try to pretend you are not sad or lonely for the sake of friends or family…it hurts only you. I am not saying that you escape the pain, but support and comfort from others allows you to express the sadness and more or less flush it out. Instead of getting stuck in thoughts that circle around and around again.

Safety, is what I think I miss. Somehow I felt safe with my Georgie around. Even when he was extremely ill and could not have really saved me from anything or anyone…just his presence allowed me to feel, safe. Therefore, if you were asking me what is the hardest thing about his loss? It would be my feeling of safety is missing. I can not put the feeling into words. But on a daily basis I am faced with actions, decisions, and schedules that are presented to me and there is no one behind me to support my own decisions. I suppose they would be the same decisions with or without George there…but his energy and love always gave me a feeling of confidence, that I was free to make a good choice. Now, I fuss over things and worry over my choices.

When I talk to my friends that are going through the same situations of loss over their spouse. I find it comforting to know they too have similar feelings. So, in a strange way, it helps me. Not to change my choices or my life decisions…but to know that its a stage that we are all going through, not just me. Those stages of grief that are printed and talked about…just so you know. They are just a suggestion of a progression through pain of loss. You do not have to go through those stages in order, or timely. You may skip feelings and then hover on other feelings. Its OK, we are not all cupie dolls walking through the same experience. So, do not be worried over the death experts…just allow yourself to feel and be as you go. No rules, no guilt. Maybe you feel nothing, maybe your relationship is tucked in perfectly. Maybe your personal beliefs have you and your loved one on a very accepted path and you are able to let your sadness go. Each of us, have our our walk through the woods. There is no rule…so do not stress. If you have an after-life belief go with it. But if you don’t…there is plenty of time to build your own.

I used to wake in the morning with George beside me in our big bed. Just as the sun was coming in the window, the room was so quiet and George still asleep. The two dogs and two cats all curled up between us and sleeping. I would look over and see them all and will myself to take a mental snap-shot of the scene. I knew it would change…so I wanted to hold on to it as long as I could.

Now, when I wake I often close my eyes again and recreate that snap-shot. Listening to the breathing of George and our little ones and feeling them all close. George is gone, so is one of our dogs and one of our cats. The scene is no longer there…but in my mind’s eye I still hold that early morning feeling of love. I still remember how I wanted that scene never to end and I take comfort in reviewing it in my mind.

I have no answers to my own future. I wish comfort and love for me as the time moves on. But I try to live each day. I don’t stay in bed…I get up and move. I try to eat well, I try to sleep well. I give my little dog and cat my love and keep them on a daily routine. I write each day, I call family, friends and clients each day. I shop for good food and remembrance gifts and cards. I have a journal that I share my fears and joys in and it helps keep me on track. Even if I am down, I try to reach out and chat with friends and family. I guess I am trying to just keep in motion. So the positive life changes for my future can happen from any direction.

My walk in the woods has just begun. Maybe yours has not even started yet…but know that when you get to the woods, they do not have to be dark and scary. The woods are filled with tall quiet trees that reach out and support you. The woods has ferns and plants that give it a carpet and sounds of birds and small animals that send you energy along the way. It is not a bad or end of the world walk, its just a stroll. Each of us has to take it. If you reach out and talk to a friend that understands or join a group that supports you…the walk will be lighter. I wish that for both of us.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

My Missy with our little Kirbee, that left us this year.

What ever you choose to do on your holiday, make time to do for others. That is how we heal; by turning around and giving a hand-up to another.

Thank you for your gift of care giving your loved one. Blessings, on your holiday. francy

How to Visit Seniors on Holidays

by Francy Dickinson                   www.seniorswithspirit.com

Here come the Holidays…Thanksgiving and all the winter fests that each of us follow. You are exhausted and have loads of family to visit. Divorced parents have two different families to add to their list of visits and often 2-4 sets of grand parents. But holidays are for all family not just the ones that are easy to visit. The older grandparent, the ones without money, or without a fancy home, ones that no longer are legally connected to you…still have feelings and love in their heart for grand children. To visit can be very hard to do both with little time and emotions. Here are some tips to bring families together in a way that they can enjoy it, not dread it:

Rules of visiting, fast and fun:

  1. Visits do not have to be long or include a dinner. They can be short and sweet, it”s your demeanor and up energy that makes it fun.
  2. Calling ahead and saying: “We are so busy this season that I was hoping I could stop by and pick you up and join us for a nice family movie and then some ice cream after.” You will have an experience with the family, but the time will be in a movie not talking or arguing. After, the treat is ice cream not a fancy dinner or the time to have someone get upset. Just friendly and fun. This works so well, you have to give it a try…Kids love it, have time for Great -Grandma and many time older grand parents haven’t been to a movie in ages.
  3. A drop by with gifts of love. Have the kids help you make easy sweet bread or cookies and put them in zip locks decorated with hand-made Holiday Cards. Dress up the kids and then give the grand parents a call, tell them you are on a tight schedule but you want to stop by and say a holiday HI and give them a hug. When they say sure…do just that…have kids go over and take pics of grandparents and kids together, give them the cookies and have the kids do a song if they are old enough. Then after 20 minutes it is time to leave and move on to an older auntie or neighbor. Short and sweet.
  4. Dinner at Grandma’s. If you have dinner at Grandma’s planned and there is family tension come prepared. Bring toys for the kids and a family photo album for you. Come with a small hostess gift to give and something easy to add to the dinner. Even if it’s candy in a candy jar, a pie from a high end bakery, or home-made something…bring and join even if you have not been asked to do so. Gifts for older Grandparents are really photos and related items. They want to see their grandchildren, so make sure the kids are dressed up and have had rest so they do not over act up at the dinner. Eat dinner, stay for dessert and then leave. That is how it is done and a little email or card in the mail to say thank you can be sent or pre-done and left on a table for them to find after you have left.
  5. Keeping your self and kids busy is the key to a dysfunctional family. Bring a movie for the kids to view or a DVD to watch a movie. Bring toys or a game for them to play. Keep yourself busy with doing the dishes for the family after dinner, the kitchen is often a good escape from angry talk around the table. Bring a small craft project like knitting or crochet and just sit quietly when all swirls around you. Or take a deep breath of fresh air with your kids with a walk around the block if  the house is getting to filled with drinking or arguments. Make your time at the dinner short and kind.
  6. Dressing up for holiday parties may seem silly to you. But showing the hostess that you respect the time that it took to ready their home and buy food and gifts is important. Make sure you’re the one with the manners.
  7. Bringing gifts can be very small…a nice candle even from the dollar store is always enjoyed and any craft project that the kids do is enjoyed by grand parents.
  8. Visiting Older family before the holiday during the week so you can leave the actual holiday for your own family and celebrations.
  9. Talk to your children before you visit older people. Tell them that you expect them to be polite and actually talk to their grand parents or older family. Show them their toys and be kind and polite. After the visit if they are good, you will take them for a treat. It is not the time for children to have an emotional fit when they are visiting a senior on a rare visit. Feed them before they go, dress them well, get them involved in the handmade gift or card and let the visit be fun and short.
  10. It all revolves around you. Why are you the one to visit in the busy part of the year? Why do you have to buy extra gifts for people you hardly know and never talk to? Because older people deserve to see and enjoy their family. It is not their fault that they can not drive over and say Hello often. These visits are often the only visits they have during the year, they are special to the senior. Please respect that and make it only 20 minutes of your life that can be with a smile and enjoyed by all.

Hope these ideas help. I know the pressure of holidays can build and build and visiting older family is just one more thing on your plate. But take a moment to remember it may be the highlight of the elder’s holiday, it may make them feel like they have value and worth in your family. They may feel their grandchildren are all they have in their life and your visit could have more value than you could imagine.

Please go and visit my website for other ideas to help care for seniors www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Thank you and blessings on your holidays, francy