In the fourth and final installment this National Hospice Month, Central New Hampshire VNA & Hospice discusses grief in the holidays.
If you have lost a loved one, you know that holidays can be hard – but know that you are not alone. The feelings you may be experiencing are common and there is help available. And if you are supporting a friend or family member who is experiencing the very real effects of grief, you are not alone either.
We all experience grief differently, and there is no “right way” to grieve. HospiceNet.org offers some thoughts that you may find helpful.
The expression of grief can be affected by one’s history and support system. It can be a cultural response. It can depend greatly on one’s current circumstances. Taking care of yourself and accessing the support of friends and family can help you cope with your grief experience. Grief lasts as long as it takes to adjust to the changes in your life after your loss. It can be for months, or even years. Grief has no timetable; thoughts, emotions, behaviors and other responses may come and go.
There are, however, some commonalities. Here are a few that may help you feel less alone:
People often wonder how long this will go on. At first, grief feels overwhelming, but with time you will find you have greater control over which memories and emotions you access. Though the loss is never forgotten, a time will come when your happy memories far outweigh the devastation you are currently feeling.
Sometimes people feel as if they are going crazy. This is particularly true when the individual’s need to grieve is out of step with social and cultural expectations. Remember that grief affects people physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. You may be required to change just when you feel least able to do so. Validation and permission to grieve from your family and friends can be a powerful comfort. You are not going crazy - you are adjusting to your new normal.
Many people are afraid to “inflict” their grief on others. This is not an unrealistic perception. Others will feel uncomfortable with your emotion. It is important that you are honest about your needs and wishes, rather than leave others guessing about what would be useful and comforting. And to family and friends - never underestimate the power of listening and being a warm presence. Don’t avoid your friend - this can further increase his or her feeling of isolation. There are no magic words or actions. Trust your ability to care.
Lastly, does counseling help? The short answer is yes. You may find it much easier to talk about what you’re feeling with others who are experiencing the same emotions. A safe and supportive environment can make a great difference.