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The holiday season presents particularly stressful situations to those struggling with grief. For many, this is the first holiday since the death of a loved one. Many can’t bear to see a Christmas tree. Every light, gift box and song invokes a painful recollection. These memories come at inopportune times, sometimes accompanied by a single tear, and sometimes with an anguish that buckles the knees. We each have to fight our way back towards “normal” and holidays are part of that struggle.
There is no formula for how to grieve. This is a gut wrenching, agonizing process in the best of situations. By the best of situations, I mean the death of a long-suffering loved one who has lived a long and productive life. More tumultuous and horrifying is handling the end of a young life. Especially one lost suddenly through stupidity, malice or some other outrageous situation.
Each of us confronts grief in our own unique manner. We all feel that our loss is so much more intense than others, that we alone hurt to our very core and only the empty spot in our soul will never heal. Some pray, some deny, some retreat into despair; many do all three. Some curse God, some are motivated to a cause and some change their lives. We have to fight this demon ourselves. Husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, daughter and son; each must find what works. Close friends, particularly young people, feel lost. They wonder where they fit in the circle of grief. Should they visit the family, what can they do to help and just as important, who’s going to help them?
Ask for help. Friends and family just don’t know what to do or say – until you tell them. Let each of them do something; even if it to just sit quietly with you and let you cry.
Having experienced a parent’s worst nightmare several years ago, I still don’t often give advice to others. The death of a child has the potential to either destroy a family or make it stronger. So often, guilt, or perceived guilt, poisons any chance of coming to grips with your new life. Luckily, we had no such obstacles. On the day of my son’s murder, my wife and I sat in our back yard, and wondered aloud; what about the past we would change if we could? Our conclusion was: nothing. We’d done the best we could; now we had to carry on the best we could.
It’s a fact that we are all here for a short time, and that we all die. Dying is the easy part.
Each of us is on journey. Where our journey begins, and where it ends, are the mysteries of the universe. Many profess absolute confidence as to our destination; most confess at least some sort of a belief in “someplace better,” but if we do then why do we suffer so? Why do we fight so hard to hold on?
I said I wouldn’t give advice, but I will make one suggestion. Find something that works to make you laugh; something private. It can be a song, a dance, a prayer, a poem or a gesture. There is that something for everyone. It may well take some time to find it, but once you do, it will always work. You can’t get over it, but you can get past it. Things will never be the same, but they will be better!
The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.