This past weekend, my family experienced the sudden loss of my wife’s dear mother, Maria Nelson. She was 90. We are now in the midst of arranging funerals, coordinating the arrival of family and helping her husband, who is 92 years old, to cope with the loss of his wife of nearly 65 years. It is a rich legacy in our family to have their example of marital and relational stability.
Grieving during the holidays
Like other families who are missing dear family members, we will be having a very different holiday season.
How could it be the same? Imprinted in our memories are the experiences associated with our recent loss. The memories, the accompanying sense of loss, and the questions of how to cope with unexpected activities and needs of the season make these holidays a time of mixed emotions.
Some families who experience loss during the holidays do not have the fond memories of sharing good moments. We do. We have the memories of many special moments we shared with this wonderful woman. We are fortunate.
The holidays can trigger past traumas
For children and adults who have imprinted memories of abuse, violence or depressive situations, the holidays can become a trigger of those traumatic events and which may reignite feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger. For those who have experienced trauma on top of loss, it can be overwhelming to even think of the holidays.
We can easily become consumed with the busyness of such a wonderful season. While people are shopping, gathering, wrapping and giving, there are others who feel isolated and incapable of the joy of the holiday spirit. I think it is important to recognize that for these individuals, memories and activities of the holidays can cause tremendous emotional difficulty.
Sensitivity toward others
It is important to be aware of those around us, whether family or friends, who adversely experience the holidays, as these individuals may need a different kind of gift…the gift of a family member or friend who can simply be with them, listen to their perspectives, share the moments and give them hope and encouragement.
My family is blessed to have the memories of a wonderful woman who was fervent in her love and care for her family. She was a special part of our lives. It is wonderful to have someone we will remember and celebrate for years to come. However, our holiday will never be the same without her.
As we enter this season of celebrations, I do hope you will be sensitized to those who have experienced significant losses in their lives, particularly children.
Maybe if each of us could take a few moments to simply spend some time with someone who has experienced difficulties, listen and empathize with his/her journey and experiences, and affirm what has occurred, the person will sense that someone truly cares. I can’t imagine offering a better gift to someone experiencing loss and difficulty during the holidays.
Our friends and family have been a major encouragement for us during our time of loss. We will remember them as very special to us for years to come.
I hope each of you can enjoy this Season of deep faith and family celebrations.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network