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Healing rituals for holiday grief

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For many of us, the holidays are a joyful time with family, friends, and other loved ones.broken heart

But if you’ve lost a loved one during the year, this time of year may very well be the opposite of  joyful.

I hope this short article I first posted on my therapy website is helpful for those of you who are struggling this year.

Holidays without your loved one . . .

can be painful and lonely. Especially if it’s the first time the holiday has rolled around after your loss.

Sometimes it’s helpful to create a small ritual to help you remain connected to your loved one while still acknowledging your loss on this special day.

Get your closest friends together, the people you feel the safest with, and create a ritual to remember your loved one during a holiday. Or do the ritual by yourself. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Write a letter to your loved one expressing your feelings during the holiday. Put it in a box and gift-wrap it. Then, put it under the Christmas tree or on a table – wherever you used to place it when your loved one was alive – and keep it as long as you like.  Or try these ideas with your ritual group: bury the box in a special place outside; burn the box and visualize releasing your feelings as the ashes float upward; have one of your friends open the box and read the letter to your ritual group.
  • Ask your ritual group to gather and have each person recall favorite stories about your loved one. You might want to structure it by having them tell stories about their holiday memories of your loved one, how they met your loved one, or what your loved one would say or do that would make them laugh the hardest.

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Tragedy, grief, love and joy

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A tale of tragedy, grief, love and joy told in snippets.

 

Facebook post, February 26, 2011Vergil and Leona Vant

On this day in 1944, my young parents were married. After Dad came home from the war, they were rarely apart. My parents held hands and danced in the kitchen. They approached life with a healthy dose of humor and common sense. After 55 years of living together, they died together.

Happy anniversary in Heaven to Ma and Pa. Always in my heart and in my dreams.

I’ll see you again…

Beck 

 

March 1999

“Do you remember Becky Vant?” my mom asked as we chatted on the phone.

“Of course! She was one of my best friends in junior high until she went to that other high school in the district,” I teased. “I haven’t seen her in years. Why do you bring her up?”

“This is just awful,” Mom began, “Becky’s parents and her sister Wendy were all killed in a train accident in Illinois a few days ago.”

“Oh my god . . . what happened?”

“A semi-truck drove onto the tracks and the train crashed into it. No one knows all the details yet.”

“I can’t believe it! I wish I knew where Becky was so I could talk with her.”

 

March 2010

Becky finds me on Facebook. Now Rebecca Phillips, married and with kids of her own, we catch up on the past twenty-five years and then our messages turn to our shared experience of grief.

Becky, I write, my grief after losing Ruth was so much more difficult than I ever thought it would be. How did you ever make it through after the train accident?

Oh, Bobbi, it was so hard, Becky responded. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t work, couldn’t take care of my kids . . . Somehow, between my faith and the love of those around me, I’ve made it this far. But I still think about my parents and Wendy every day.

 

Facebook post, February 27, 2011

Becky responds after receiving 25 comments on her post

Thank you all. Every day of my life, I become more and more convinced that I am one of the luckiest people around, because I have an amazing family and a phenomenal group of friends. I love your stories and I appreciate all of your generosity and love.

Life is good.   

                                                                                 __________________________________________________


In loving memory of Vergil, Leona, and Wendy Vant. Your “lucky” daughter and sister continues to teach us that, even after tragedy, life is good.

Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.