The holidays and grief are an unwelcome pairing. There is no time that is easy to grieve, but for a season filled with reunions of family and friends, songs of joy and celebration, remembering our loved ones and the fact that they are not here to share these times with us, can be unbearable. There are plenty of good resources to help you through these weeks, however, one suggestion in all we've read stands out as a very good idea that has the potential of healing for more than just the season. The idea is to start a new tradition in honor of those we have lost. Traditions are about family, and friends. They are reoccurring events or deeds that bind us together with purpose and memories. By changing the focus of the way you celebrate the season, you can move in a new direction based on what may have been important to your loved one. You can still enjoy the meaning of the season and join it with the loving memories you have of those who have passed. So think hard about what they might want as a new tradition for celebration. Will it be something to make you laugh, a generous gift to a favorite charity, time spent on a cause that was important to them? Consider something that will allow you to spend time with the people you love, something that will make you feel connected. Sharing your talents and time can lift your spirit and bring your family together. The options are endless and can be inspiring and will give your tradition a new sense of meaning. The focus placed on something new that blends memories of the past can be healing in itself. This season, try not to hold in your grief, but shout out the love and joy you had with the loved one you lost - for all to remember and treasure this holiday season and for many to come.
When you are feeling blue or mourning the loss of someone dear in your life, happiness can be hard to come by during a season that focuses on being merry. Turning to your family as a support system to get you through the upcoming weeks can be the best answer. Consider reaching out to your family to assist you in making decisions regarding the traditions and tasks that you usually take on during the holidays. Make a list of all the things that you traditionally do such as buying gifts, decorating your tree and/or house, sending Christmas Cards, reaching out to old friends, volunteering your time at church or a local organization, going to parties. Have a good look at the list and see what is still important to you or what you might be able to forego this year. Then have an honest and upfront conversation with your family seeking their assistance with these tasks before the stresses of the holiday season get everyone out of balance. Taking these steps early on will bring back some of the joy that has gone missing while the memories of a loved one lost weighs heavy on your mind.
A few Thanksgiving holidays ago, I received a small card in the mail from a friend. The message was short and quite simple. It read "Thank you for being in my life. I am grateful for you everyday." Wow! That made an impact on me. During this season everywhere we look we see messages wishing us "Happy Thanksgiving"; from advertisers hoping for huge Black Friday sales, on social media with cute dancing turkey GIFs and with decorations in stores, businesses and homes. There is so much focus on the day, the dinner, the pies, the relatives flying in from out of town, so much to take our minds off what is the very simple message of this wonderful holiday....to give thanks. Maybe this year, if you have time before the day when loved ones gather, think about a few special people, maybe those who may be alone on Thanksgiving. Is there a way you can say thank you to them, for being a special part of your life?
You may have heard of the Mexican holiday, Diá de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and thought that it was simply a Mexican version of Halloween. The holiday is actually a multi-day celebration, coinciding with Halloween, the American holiday on October 31, All Saints' Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. Diá de los Muertos is rich in Mexican culture and is an important holiday to honor and remember those who have passed away. Up until recently, many people were not aware of the true meaning of Diá de los Muertos, which includes celebrations filled with colorful painted skeletons known as Calavera Catrinas. But recently, the Disney animated movie "Coco" gave a glimpse into the rich traditions of this holiday. If you have not seen the movie, it is a wonderful, colorful, loving look at the way families and friends gather together to remember those who have died and help them through their spiritual journey. The holiday includes celebrating by setting up altars, visiting and tending grave sites, writing poetry and decorating with calaveras. Traces of this celebration can be found back as far as the Aztec culture. How can you join in Diá de los Muertos? Find a community near you that is celebrating or simply take time to reflect on loved ones lost to you and wish them well on their journey home.
Could this be the right thing for your family?
We are so very proud to be associated with the Margie Hilgenfeld Tree Memorial Program offered through the nonprofit organization Anaheim Beautiful. The program was named after my mother Margie, shortly after her passing in 2015. A former president of Anaheim Beautiful, my mother founded this program which has brought so much comfort to so many.
This program is made possible through a partnership with the City of Anaheim Community Services Department and Anaheim Beautiful offering the opportunity to plant a tree in a City of Anaheim park on behalf of a friend or family member. The cost is $300 and provides a 24-inch box tree, a certificate and the ability to attend the tree planting with a brief ceremony. Additional funds collected through the tree memorial cost go to support the Anaheim Beautiful Thelma Jordan Scholarship, awarded annually to provide financial support for a young Anaheim resident pursuing a career in Urban Environmental Studies. A nice way to pay it forward.
Additional information on the Margie Hilgenfeld Tree Memorial Program can be found on the Anaheim Beautiful website: www.anaheimbeautiful.org.
Is There a Right or Wrong Way to Grieve?
With today's influx of information from so many avenues, there is no shortage of advice when it comes to the grieving process. Reading about grief and listening to experts or even family and friends won't necessarily guide you to the best way to get through a devastating loss. Every person is unique, with different personalities and ways of coping with stress or sadness; even culture can play a role. The important thing is to be respectful of the way someone chooses to grieve and, if it is you, be gentle with your own needs. Allowing others to provide support is generally known to have a positive impact on the grieving process. How much and how soon support should be provided will be something that is tailored by the person experiencing the loss. Give them space and time and keep a careful eye. - Excepts from MyCareletter and a reprinted article from The Centre for Grief Education, McCulloch House, Monash Medical Centre.
What is the History of Cremation?
The final disposition of the deceased depends on personal preferences as well as cultural and religious beliefs. Cremations as a method of the disposal of a body dates back to 42,000 years ago according to archaeological studies. However, in many parts of Europe the process was forbidden by law, punishable by death or even used by some religious authorities as a punishment for heretics. Advocating for cremation began in the Europe in the mid 1600's and the first official recorded European to be cremated was not until 1769, although it was an illegal cremation. In 1874, the Cremation Society of Great Britain was founded for the purpose of disseminating information on the process and adopting the best methods to perform cremations. As a result of a legal case in 1884, which stated that although the law did not state that cremation was legal, it also did not state that it was illegal, the first official cremation in Great Britain was performed in 1885. This preceded the Cremation Act of 1902 which allowed cremation in Great Britain in authorized places only. The process was infrequently used in the United States as well until the early 1900s. Today, the cremation rate is nearly 40 percent in the United States and more and more people are opting for cremation as part of their funeral services. We will address some of the reasons people choose cremation over traditional burial in future blogs.
Parable on Immortality
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, "There she goes."
Gone where? Gone from my sight...that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says "There she goes," there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes."
Henry Van Dyke.
Family and Friends - Helping A Loved One Through the Journey of Grief
Part Two in our series of suggested guidelines to help someone you love who is grieving.
Listen and don't try to fix things. - When you listen, which is so important, try really hard to do just that - listen. Don't try to "bandaid" all the worries and woes, as you can't. The best remedy is a willing ear.
Show tender care and encouragement. - Those who grieve will be of heavy heart for a long while. You need to, if possible, be there for the long journey. Caring, encouraging and letting them know you are there beside them is one of the best gifts you can give.
Share your own memories of their loved one. - Grieving will bring back a flood of memories, ones that may be hard to suppress and become all consuming. Offering your own stories of those who have passed can shift direction and show your friend that the individual will not be forgotten.
Realize that companioning grief takes its toll. - Guiding and helping someone you love through the grieving process is emotionally draining. It steals your energy and puts your emotions in a constant low state as well, especially if you also knew the person who passed. Be sure you keep yourself emotionally and physically healthy to remain strong in support of your family and friends who are grieving.
Guidelines and tips are helpful, but are no panacea for solving or quickening someone's grief. Time, care, compassion and love are the best tools to hold close through this difficult time. Content for this article was taken from My Careletter and an article written by Reverend Mary Bredlau.
Family and Friends - Helping A Loved One Through the Journey of Grief
- Part One
Without a doubt, grieving can be a very lonely experience and at times, solitude is necessary to help get you through. But over the course of time, family and friends will play an important role in the grieving process. If you know someone who needs your support, here are a few guidelines and tips. (Part two of this article will appear in our next blog.)
Acknowledge, don't avoid. - When someone is grieving, the natural tendency is to leave them alone, giving them space until they are ready. It may take time, but your acknowledgement of the loss will help those who are grieving accept the difficult reality. Your words and presence will smooth that transition.
Serve as a willing sponge. - You job as a support provider is to listen and listen again. Listen to the story of pain over and over until the storyteller no longer needs to hear it themselves.
Validate without correcting. - When someone grieves, they need to talk. They need someone to hear them and know that what they are saying is being heard. Try to validate what they are saying without contradicting or correcting them on small details or using cliches to make them feel better.
Accept where they are in the grieving process. - There is no timetable for grief. So many factors determine how and when someone emerges from the grief over the loss of someone they love. Accept their timing and wait for them to find the right schedule to begin to heal.
Offer specific ways to help. - So many times, although well meaning, people offer their help after the death of a loved one, but give no substance behind the offer. Saying, "call me if you need me", will most likely result in no connection. Offer specific ways you can help and follow through.
We'll be addressing several other ways to be the best support you can be for family or friends who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Our next blog will detail four final suggestions. Content for this article was taken from My Careletter and an article written by Reverend Mary Bredlau.