11/28/19

widowhood way back when: how pilgrims progressed through loss





If you’re facing a Thanksgiving dinner that might be hindered by a bad case of heartburn or having to cope with troublesome relatives, consider what the original Pilgrims had to cope with. Especially the widowed survivors.

For a look back, we discovered the informative article, Pilgrim Burials on the site http://www.lovetoknow.com/.

According to this excerpt from authors J.C. Redmond and MaryBeth Adomaitis, “Pilgrim burials were relatively simple affairs. The occupants of the Mayflower were buried in unmarked graves because it is thought that they didn't want the Native Americans living in the area to know how small of a population they were.”

The authors go on to describe later Pilgrim burials, “When Pilgrims died, headstones were not erected at the burial site. No artisans skilled in carving stone had come over with the first group of settlers. In addition, there was no stone available in the area where the Pilgrims settled from which to fashion a monument to the dead. Their first priority was to concentrate on the tasks necessary for survival; even if the stone carvers had come on the trip, there wasn't any time to carve headstones.

A family wanting to erect a headstone in memory of a loved one would have to go to the expense of having one brought over from England.”

Redmond and Adomaitis describe burial rituals, “In the early years after the arrival of the Pilgrims in North America, funerals were a very simple matter. No funeral ceremony was conducted and no special sermon was given. The grieving family did not wear mourning clothes for a certain time after the death.

Embalming of the body of the deceased was not done. On occasion, graves were opened and reused. The bodies of a family or a small community may share the same grave.”

So enjoy the food and be grateful that as difficult as some relatives can be, at least you aren’t stuck with them for all eternity.

11/25/19

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/.

11/21/19

holiday greetings dilemmas






Here's useful tips on handling an uncomfortable holiday dilemma.


1) Those Who Don't Know About Your Loss

You may receive some holiday greetings 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 include a separate notification along with their customary holiday cards or messages.

Not sure how to break the news?

In the notification 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 Greetings

If you usually send out seasonal cards or messages, 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.    

11/18/19

best ways to get through the holidays; part 2


In our last post, we suggested the best ways to cope with the upcoming holiday season.

Here are more proven strategies:

1) Contact the host or hostess before the get-together and let them know that you aren’t feeling like your usual self and may need to leave early.

2) Give yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to a gathering where your spouse is no longer with you.

3) Take your own car or alert a friend who is driving that you may want to leave early.

4) If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can retreat to the bathroom or take a short walk for some private time.

5) If you choose to avoid the usual gatherings, consider volunteering to serve meals at shelters, visiting shut-ins, or spending the day at a movie or health spa.

Remember: You will get through this time. We’ve found that the anticipation is usually much worse than the actual events. Be sure to plan ahead and do only what is most comfortable for you.

11/14/19

best ways to get through the holidays; part 1


Dreading the upcoming holidays?

If you’ve recently lost your spouse, the coming festivities can feel as unwelcome as Marley’s Ghost.

Here are some tried and true strategies for facing the holiday season:

1) Think ahead and try to anticipate how you’ll feel on each holiday.

2) Even if you don’t join in the festivities, don’t remain alone all day. Spend some time with a friend.

3) Considering your loss, don’t expect yourself to be as upbeat as usual. Expect some sadness as you take part in the festivities.

4) To lessen the chance of emotional sneak attacks, make some time to grieve, either on the holiday or just before it.

5) If you do choose to join in holiday activities, make some changes as to how much you do or become involved in.

Look for more tips in our next post.

11/11/19

bereavement counseling for surviving families of veterans

With Veteran's Day being observed this week, you might want to check out the opportunities for bereavement counseling if your loved one was a veteran.

The Veterans Affairs website was updated last year and is loaded with information about survivor benefits of all kinds. 

According to the website: The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers bereavement counseling to parents, spouses and children of Armed Forces personnel who died in the service of their country. Also eligible are family members of reservists and National Guardsmen who die while on duty. VA's bereavement counseling is provided at community-based Vet Centers located near the families. There is no cost for VA bereavement counseling. S

Services are obtained by contacting Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) at 202-273-9116 or via electronic mail at vet.center@hq.med.va.gov both of which are specific to this specialized service.

RCS staff will assist families in contacting the nearest Vet Center. For further information, please visit http://www.vba.va.gov/EFIF/dependents.htm#deceased and/or http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/Bereavement_Counseling.asp

Even if you yourself aren't a surviving family member, you may discover some important resources that can help a friend or relative who has lost a serviceman/woman.

Our thanks and best wishes go out to all veterans and their families!

11/7/19

when the visits stop; part 2


In our last post, we covered what it felt like once the visits and activities following your late spouse/partner’s funeral begin to taper off.

But how do you cope with feelings (such as those of abandonment), that may arise as things quiet down?

Keep in mind that others usually take their cues from you about how much or how little interaction you want or need. Although you may find it a struggle just to get out of bed each day, please consider the following:

1. It’s okay to reach out to others. They will probably be pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call or e-mail from you.

2. Keep it simple. Suggest an activity like coffee, a meal or a movie that involves a minimal time commitment from you during this difficult period.

3. Look into widowed groups as a place to meet others who are going through similar experiences (discover many other opportunities for meeting people in our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?)

4. Spend some time with children and/or grandchildren. Visits can be kept short if that’s more convenient for you.

5. Although your memory and concentration are probably impaired right now, others will understand. Remind yourself that these symptoms of grief will get better.

Remember to take one step at a time and try not to remain isolated from other people.

11/4/19

when the visits stop; part 1





In the period following your spouse/partner’s funeral, you were probably caught up in a flurry of visits and invitations from family and friends.

Not to mention the tasks of legal and financial paperwork.

These activities can provide both distraction and comfort from the pain of loss.

Once all the distraction has begun to taper off however, you may find yourself feeling:

· The pain of your loss more acutely as the initial shock wears off.

· A sense of abandonment, both by your spouse and others you depend on.

· A sense of being unsettled, as you ask yourself “Where do I go from here?”

· Overwhelmed by the challenge of how to put your life back together again.

There are several ways to deal with these reactions as they come up during this period.

We’ll have some helpful tips in our next post.