12/14/17

getting through get-togethers; part 2: tips for feeling in control


In Part 1, we talked about taking some steps to be emotionally prepared before you attend a get-together.

Our excerpt from Lost My Partner continues:

 You can gain a greater sense of control in these (party) situations by:

1) Giving yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to the circumstances. Remember that without your spouse/partner, this is a new situation. Expect some brief uneasiness. Many discover that once they’ve made it past the first half hour, they’re more relaxed.

2) Contacting the host or hostess ahead of time to explain that you aren’t your usual self and may wish to leave early.

3) Taking your own car or alerting a friend who’s driving you about the possibility of making an early exit.

4) Giving yourself a ‘time-out’ in the event of feeling overwhelmed, so you can retreat to the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom, or take a walk, and have a brief cry. Most people will understand.

In Part 3, we’ll cover how to break the ice about your loved one when others are uncertain about mentioning the loss.

12/11/17

getting through get-togethers; part 1: first things first






Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, here are some proven strategies for making it through festive gatherings, even when you aren’t feeling in the holiday spirit.

In our previous post, Best Ways to Get Through the Holidays (Part 1), we suggest “To lessen the chance of emotional ‘sneak attacks’, make some time to grieve, either on the holiday or just before it.”

In Lost My Partner, we add, “Even when you’ve prepared yourself by making time to grieve beforehand, you may feel anxious about becoming uncomfortable in a festive gathering. There’s often a sense of being “out of it”, as you watch others having a good time.

However, just going, even if you need to leave early, is a sign of progress.”

In Part 2, learn the best ways to gain a greater sense of control in these situations.

12/7/17

help yourself through the holidays by helping others



Is the prospect of any holiday celebrating just too much to consider this year?

If you recently lost your partner, you may be feeling very “bah, humbug!” about all the customary activities and rituals of the season.

While you may chose to modify some of your usual tasks (see our post about surviving the holidays), you might be thinking about ignoring the day completely.

Keep in mind that at some point, either on the holiday or before, the pain of your loss with catch up with you (learn more about preventing “sneak attacks”).

So in addition to grieving, what can you do if you want to skip the usual holiday activities?

This time of year, there are numerous opportunities for volunteering in your community.

Consider participating with a friend and/or your children or grandchildren.

In addition to helping you stay busy during this difficult period, you’ll gain the warm feelings that come with brightening the days for those you help.

Here are some good ideas we found on factoidz.com:

Nursing Homes
Nursing homes need all kinds of volunteers. You could help decorate for their Christmas and Thanksgiving parties. They usually have a need for gift wrappers as well, and for volunteers to help the elderly make arts and crafts Christmas gifts. Volunteering for the elderly can be a year round project.

Women’s Shelters
These shelters would love to have help decorating trees, babysitting, and maybe even transporting women to do their holiday shopping. Also consider doing things like answering phones and data entry.

Homeless Shelters
There is always a need for help in these shelters, and these days our shelters are overflowing with people who need your services. Go there to help with fundraising, food preparation, clothing drives; the list is endless.

Food Kitchens
Thanksgiving is a great time to help prepare and serve a hot meal to the needy. Shelters are listed in the phone book and on the Internet.

Children’s Shelters
Help the kids get the toys they want for Christmas. Call your local childrens’ shelter and find out what toys they need and drop them off. Remember Toys for Tots, it’s sponsored by the United States Marine Corps, and all you have to do is buy a toy and drop it off at one of many selected drop off points.

Your local place of worship
Ask your religious advisor what you can do to help those in your community, maybe even those at your place of worship need help. This type of volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help our neighbors.

Online Volunteering
Contribute your skills to organizations all around the world, and help them grow. You can make a difference through your translation skills, research, writing and editing….the possibilities are almost endless.

Any other suggestions for holiday volunteering?

Please let us know.

12/4/17

holiday postal dilemmas






Here's useful tips on handling some uncomfortable holiday postal dilemmas.


1) Those Who Don't Know About Your Loss

You may receive some holiday cards that still include your spouse/partner in the address (learn more about the whole issue of being caught off guard by people who don’t know about the loss in our earlier post, Encounters of the Awkward Kind; When Others Haven't Heard About Your Loss).

If there are some friends or business associates who haven’t yet heard about your spouse/partner’s death, you may be wondering about notifying them during the holidays.

It’s okay to do what feels most comfortable. While some people prefer to wait until the stress of the holidays is over, others choose to send letters along with their customary holiday cards.

Not sure how to break the news?

In the letter itself, you can give a brief description about what happened.

Then add a short update about how you and the family are coping.


2) To Send or Not to Send Holiday Cards

If you usually send out seasonal cards, you may feel uncertain about doing so this year. For many, this annual ritual is an important part of the holidays, and some may even feel guilty about not sending cards.

It's important to keep in mind however, that under the circumstances it's okay to skip this or any other holiday ritual you don't feel up to because you're mourning.

Others will understand.    

11/30/17

reflections: by darcie sims



With the holidays here, we thought we’d post this inspiring article by Darcie Sims from The Grief Blog.com. Although it’s about a military family, the issue is one that we all deal with at holiday times.

The Empty Chair
There’s an empty chair in our house and I am not sure what to do with it. It’s been empty a long time and although we’ve moved more than a few times since it became empty, we still haul it around with us. It’s not a particularly classic chair or even a very pretty one, and it is empty…all the time.

I never really know which room to put it in whenever we do move, but once it has found its place, I’ve noticed that it simply stays there. No one moves it, no one suggests putting it away.


No one sits in it. It’s just an empty chair.

As a military family, for many generations, we are used to having members of the family off in faraway places for long periods of time. My father would be gone for up to a year or even two. His chair was often empty at the table. My husband’s military career took him away for many months at a time, and his chair was often empty. And then, when our daughter was commissioned in the military, we knew her chair would also be empty sometimes. So empty chairs at our house are not an uncommon thing, but this chair…this chair should never have been empty.

As the holidays approach, I am always faced with the task of deciding what to do with our empty chair. Should we put it away for the season? Should we decorate it? Or should we just ignore it?

One holiday season, we did decide to put it away. Even though it was an empty chair, it left an even bigger empty space when we did move. How can that be? How can something that is empty leave a bigger empty space when it’s gone?!

We’ve tried to ignore it, but its emptiness is very loud and it is hard to miss an empty chair in a room filled with people sitting in all the other chairs. And even when we could manage to ignore it, others could not and they always commented on it. An empty chair is not invisible.

Then, one year, we decided to simply include it in our holiday decorating scheme; that was the cause of some interesting discussions. Should we put a special holiday pillow in it? What about tossing a colorful quilt or afghan over the back? Should we put something in the chair? But nothing we tried could fill the emptiness of that chair. It just sat silent like a sentinel, waiting for something…or someone.

It took us many years of living with that empty chair, day in and day out, to finally figure out what to do with it. Our empty chair is pulled up to the table and a single rose is placed on the plate, a symbol of everlasting love. The empty chair represents all of those who are not with us for this occasion, but who live within our hearts forever. It is not a sad sight because we know that empty chair represents a love we have known and shared and with that gift, our family is forever blessed.

We join hands in thanksgiving, completing the circle with the empty chair within our family circle, for even though death may have come, love never goes away.

So, if your holiday table will have an empty chair this year, remember that it is not truly an empty space. That place is still occupied by the love and joy of the one(s) who sat in it. Don’t hide that chair away. You may not wish to bring it to the table as we do, but take time this holiday season to remember the laughter, the joy, the love, the light of those who are no longer within hug’s reach, but whose love still fills us with gratitude.

Join hands around your table, however small, and say a prayer of thanksgiving…for the love you have known and still hold deep within your heart. You are rich beyond measure for having had a chair filled. Don’t let death rob you of the heart space that love keeps.

Our little empty chair…no one has sat in it for 25 years…until this season. The empty chair at our house has been filled with the tiny spirit of a new life as she found that chair to be just the “right size.”

We are a family circle, some chairs filled and others not, broken by death, but mended by love.


Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CGC, CHT


Reach Darcie Sims at http://www.griefinc.com/.