12/28/20

we're taking the rest of the week off - happy holidays!


We'll be back next week with more tips and advice.

In the meantime, please check out our earlier posts for support and information.


Happy Holidays to all!


Laurie and Ruth

12/24/20

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/.

12/21/20

fa la la la lost my partner


This time of year it’s all around us: holiday music.

From shopping malls to television to our computers, we’re bombarded by holiday tunes and jingles.

If you’ve recently lost your partner, these seasonal tunes can stir up happy memories as well as tears of remembrance.

Because it’s everywhere, holiday music and the bittersweet recollections that bring on tears are hard to avoid.

Rather than fighting it, we suggest you try to “go with the flow” and, in the privacy of your own home, allow a few tears.

By giving yourself permission to grieve, it will be easier to get on with some of the pleasures of the holiday season.

12/17/20

widowhood way back when: the 19th century mourning timetable



“Victorian mourning fashion,” according to Kyshah Hell, in her article Victorian Mourning Garb, “Was aimed mainly at women, widows in particular. The fashion had a way of isolating a widow in her time of need just as the Queen had done. For the first year, a woman who was in mourning was not allowed to exit her home without full black attire and a weeping veil. Her activities were initially restricted to church services.”

She goes on to describe the required stages of mourning for women:

“Full mourning, a period of a year and one day, was represented with dull black clothing without ornament. The most recognizable portion of this stage was the weeping veil of black crepe. If a woman had no means of income and small children to support, marriage was allowed after this period. There are cases of women returning to black clothing on the day after marrying again.”

“Second mourning, a period of nine months,” the author continues, “Allowed for minor ornamentation by implementing fabric trim and mourning jewelry. The main dress was still made from a lusterless cloth. The veil was lifted and worn back over the head. Elderly widows frequently remained in mourning for the rest of their lives.

Half mourning lasted from three to six months and was represented by more elaborate fabrics used as trim. Gradually easing back into color was expected coming out of half mourning. All manner of jewelry could be worn.”

“The standard mourning time for a widower, “ the author points out, “Was two years but it was up to his discretion when to end his single stage. Men could go about their daily lives and continue to work. Typically young unmarried men stayed in mourning for as long as the women in the household did. “

12/14/20

reflections by deb edwards: hard to believe it's been a year

The first year following the death of a spouse is filled with many “anniversaries”, occasions that can stir up memories both happy and sad.
Contributer Deb Edwards shared some recollections that the anniversary of her husband's death triggered for her:

Hard to Believe It's Been a Year
This is a tough month for me. Last year at this time, I put my husband Dale into hospice and began preparing myself for the inevitable (as much as you can “prepare”). But it was a very special time; we made our amends and reaffirmed our love. I was able to make two of his wishes come true before he died: to receive his black belt and to be baptized. It was a very special time for our family – but one that brings back many smiles and many tears. It is hard to believe it has almost been one year. 

Look for more about coping with these special days in our other posts.

12/10/20

best ways to get through the holidays during covid 19


With Christmas and New Year’s arriving during the current pandemic, we thought you might appreciate some additional support right now.


Best Ways to Get Through the Holidays During Covid 19:

Dreading the upcoming holidays? Especially with Covid restrictions making everyone feel more isolated?If you’ve recently lost your spouse, the  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 virtual family gatherings, don’t remain alone all day. Spend some time chatting with a friend by phone using Facetime, if possible.

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

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 online family holiday activities, feel free to limit how long you remain online or become involved in the conversation.



12/7/20

take the "surprise!" out of anniversary reactions




We've looked at how to recognize when you’re being ambushed by unexpected anniversary reactions following the death of your spouse/partner.

Now let’s talk about how to cope with these situations.

Anniversary reactions have a way of “sneaking up” and blindsiding us despite our best efforts to avoid them. Even the most subtle sights, sounds, smells, or other reminders can suddenly trigger powerful and often baffling reactions of loss.

Here are some ways to disarm those “sneak attacks”:

A) Take the time to identify what’s touched off your reaction (see our previous post).

B) Give yourself permission to feel the sadness associated with the event you’re remembering.

C) Assure yourself that now that you’re aware of a particular emotional trigger, you can better anticipate it in the future. This will give you greater control in dealing with the situation.

D) Allowing yourself to experience the feelings of loss means you’re taking another step forward in your mourning process.

Keep in mind that although there are always these emotional triggers out there, the pain you feel will become less intense over time.

We’d love to hear about ways you’ve found to cope with anniversary reactions, especially the “sneaky” types.

12/3/20

how you and your pets can help each other




How can you and your pet(s) help each other through the mourning process?

It’s important to recognize that pets also feel grief and express it in their own ways.

To better understand how animals mourn, read our post, Is Your Pet Also Grieving?

There’s also an informative post on Psychology Today’s blog by Marc Bekoff that looks at scientific data about animals and grief.

Declaring “Grief in animals: It's arrogant to think we're the only animals who mourn”, the author goes on to say, “There is no doubt that many animals experience rich and deep emotions. It's not a matter of if emotions have evolved in animals but why they have evolved as they have. We must never forget that our emotions are the gifts of our ancestors, our animal kin. We have feelings and so do other animals.

Among the different emotions that animals display clearly and unambiguously is grief. Many animals display profound grief at the loss or absence of a close friend or loved one.” (Read More)

Our pets can also provide invaluable emotional support for us in our bereavement. For more about this, read our post Pets As Support, where we discuss the various studies that reveal the ways animals are able to show empathy and affection to bereaved owners.

We’d appreciate hearing about your own experiences with your pets.