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Saturday, November 20, 2010

I don't think I can do it!

Where do we go from here? Where do we even begin? Can we begin again, is it even possible? So many questions we ask ourselves, especially when the holidays are staring us in the face.

Next week, next Thursday to be exact, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful holiday, one that I truly enjoy. I look forward to the cooking, baking and just getting ready to share my home with others. It is one of those holidays that comes with very little fan fare. There is no commercialization, no presents to buy, no cards to mail out, unless you want to, and no rushing around. It is one of those holidays to lets you simply enjoy family and friends.

For those of us who have lost a loved one, finding things to be grateful for can be very difficult. We may go through the motions, we may try to enjoy ourselves, but it is not easy. I remember that first Thanksgiving, I cooked, made a few desserts, cried while peeling potatoes, and just went through the motions. We had gone away, a suggestion from my counselor, so that we were away from what was familiar.

My family and I rented a condo, packed our bags, all the fixings and headed north. It was nice, our children were there, my mom, and 2 of my three brothers with their families. We spent four days up north, just relaxing, playing games or watching movies. My counselor was right the change of scenery did make it easier to get through.

Not everyone can take off for the holidays, but we can find ways to keep our loved one an important part of our celebration. You can make donations to organizations that help others, food pantries, homeless shelters, children's programs, etc. If you have the strength, make and share their favorite food or dessert. Set a place at the table for them. You can all share something you remember about your loved one that you are grateful for. Light a candle in their memory. Be creative.

One thing that is important to remember, is you need to do what is best for you. Keep in mind that we also cause added stress, by worrying about how we are going to handle the holiday. I remember just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, getting all worked up, telling myself there was no way that I could handle it. I was sure that I would be reduced to an uncontrollable, sobbing mess. I did cry, I did feel sadness and emptiness, but I made it through Thanksgiving, the next day and even the day after. I survived and it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.

One thing I know for sure, is you need to take care of yourself. I found myself getting sick every 6 weeks, my immune system was doing it's own thing. I was not getting enough sleep, my eating habits were so screwy, and I was in a funk. So try to get some rest, try to eat well, and if possible get some exercise. For me, I found walking very relaxing and helpful. I would take a walk wearing my sunglasses, and I would just let the tears flow with every step I took. It was very therapeutic, and got me out of the house.

We all deal and cope with death in our own way, and what might work for me, is no help to you. You will need to find what works for you, what makes you feel better, what allows you to heal. Don't let anyone tell you that what you are doing is wrong, remember no one but you knows the pain you are in. Our grief is a unique as we are.

However you decide to celebrate the holidays, or maybe not celebrate at all, is what is right for you. Keep in mind that even though you are in pain, and it hurts, there are other family members who are hurting too. Like you, they too many not be sure of what to do, or say. Some may wish to talk about it and others may avoid the subject as if it were the plague. We all handle it differently, and we all worry about each other, and in the hopes of being helpful, may choose silence.

So be patient with yourself, with your family and with your friends, know that they love you and they too miss your loved one. If you find that you have no one to talk to within your family or circle of friends, reach out to support groups, counselors, your priest or minister. There are also many organizations, such as Visiting Nurses Association, Hospice, Compassionate Friends and so many more, who offer special programs to help the bereaved get through the holidays. Check local papers, hospitals, churches, synagogues, etc., they may very well be aware of what is happening and being offered in your community.

I know for a fact that you can and will survive, and when you look back you will realize that it wasn't as bad as you feared. So allow yourself to remember, allow yourself to feel the love, and most importantly allow yourself to grieve in your own personal way.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!  May you be surrounded by love, laughter and happiness, and know that your loved one is always near, always in your heart.  

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