Tag Archive | traditions after loss

Grief & Holidays ~ helpful tip #1

(This was originally published on this blog (Grief Bites) a few years ago. I’m just reposting it since it’s the holidays)

Throughout the Christmas season, I’ll be offering encouraging tips on how to get through the holidays during times of grief.

After going through multiple family deaths on or around holidays, the holidays became a very painful and challenging time. As I share what my family and I have learned through the process of creating special, enjoyable, and meaningful holidays again – in spite of grief – I hope all who read these helpful tips will be encouraged and comforted!

Grief can definitely make the holidays very challenging to get through…but there truly is hope.

I wish each of you a peaceful Christmas season that is filled with hope, comfort, encouragement, and even joy!

My first holiday tip is:

Grieve how you need to grieve and be kind to yourself. Do not put on yourself the extra pressure of having the “perfect” holidays.

Just like you are having to create a “new normal” in day-to-day life, you may need to create a “new holiday normal,” or the freedom to do holidays differently for a season as well. Creating new normals doesn’t make anything (or return anything back to) normal. I like to think of and compare “creating new normals” to an inflated inter tube…it doesn’t make anything immediately better, but it will keep a griever from completely drowning.

When going through grief, holidays can lose their previous joy, sparkle and specialness.

• Suddenly, the tree that used to shine bright holding treasured ornaments and memories can now bring about intense sadness

• Baking treats and making favorite dishes you used to bake or make for a loved one who is no longer here can now bring about incredible heartache

• Old familiar traditions can now bring intense pain…even anxiety or depressed feelings

• Certain Christmas songs can be tied to a special memory or remind you of a loved one, and can bring sudden tears

• And seeing happy couples and cheerful families—on social media or in real life—can bring about feelings of depression, hopelessness, or maybe even envy

It is very painful navigating through the holidays when going through the loss of a loved one, adultery or divorce, miscarriage/infertility, financial or job loss, family/marital/stepfamily conflict, physical or mental illness of a loved one, addiction issues, family rebellion or estrangement, or other painful losses.

…And it can be extra painful and burdensome when family and friends do not understand or agree with how you are handling your grief.

Explain to family and friends that the holidays are going to be tough on you and lovingly ask them for their help, support, and compassion.

Some grievers may be able to do all of their usual holiday traditions, while others may not…BOTH are perfectly fine!

Pray about and consider what you need to do, or not do, this holiday season and come to a place of peace about it.

It doesn’t mean it will always be like this…(just because you choose something this year doesn’t mean it will be cemented forever)…it simply means you are doing what you need to do THIS holiday season to make it through.

Communication is key! Talk about it with your loved ones, to avoid hurt feelings or conflict. Some compromise may also be needed when choosing what to do (and not do) during the holidays. Ideally, it is best to come to decisions where your grief is genuinely honored while also factoring in honoring your time with remaining loved ones. Just like there is no such thing as “cookie cutter” grief, not every griever or family will handle the holidays the exact same way either. Each must communicate and find what’s best for their own individual family. It may include fully celebrating holidays as usual…or changing things up just a little…or beginning some new traditions…or completely changing everything this year…or going out of town, on a vacation, or to visit family who live out of town for a change of scenery. There are many ways to create a special, meaningful holiday during times of grief.

If you have family and friends who love you, support you, and encourage you, what an amazing gift that truly is! Be sure to thank them for any way they bring encouragement, meaning, and love to your life!

I am praying for everyone who is going through a sad or tough time to have a meaningful holiday season – and I truly hope everyone is surrounded by understanding and caring family and friends who will encourage you this month.

It can take time to find a new holiday normal, so please don’t be hard on yourself. It takes time, effort, and grace to work out a broken heart and to pick up the pieces of a shattered life.

The first few years are the absolute hardest, but through genuinely remembering and honoring your treasured deceased loved ones, honoring your grief situation, showing love to your remaining loved ones, and working through your grief, holidays can hold great joy again…in time!

Gratitude & blessings,
Kim

©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

🎄❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others! 🎄For more encouragement: ❤️ Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net ❤️ Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): softcover and hardcopy – http://www.barnesandnoble.com or for $3.19 eBook – https://www.christianbook.com

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief
ible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

🎄2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

🎄3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

🎄4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

🎄❤️🎄

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The Yo-Yo of Grief & Holidays

Most grievers go through…and understand…the yo-yo cycles of grief.

You dread the holidays…then you desperately want to have the ability to enjoy the holidays…then you agonize about the holidays…then you go through a period of time where you just wish holidays could be normal again…and then you may feel guilty when you do enjoy the holidays…then you feel weird…then come to peace about it…and the grief cycle can spin you again out of nowhere…and so on…and so on…and so on.

The thing about grief: nobody who is going through grief signed up for it.

The harsh emotional turmoil.

The guilt.

The regrets.

The crazy emotions.

Nobody in their right mind would even wish it on their most annoying enemy. I know I wouldn’t.

My holiday yo-yo began several years ago…and I sure have learned a lot about God, grief, life, family, friends, and overcoming grief ever since.

Several years ago, my 22 year old sister died on Thanksgiving Day.

It shouldn’t have happened…she had everything going for her: she was married and she was a mom to three beautiful children who she loved with all of her heart. She adored and enjoyed being a mom so much that she was trying to have another baby. An amazing pianist, she had taken piano lessons at a university since elementary school since no teachers in our area could keep up with her talent. An accomplished baker, she and I had been going to several baking and candy workshops since we were in the process of opening our very own bakery and chocolatier…that way we could always have a flexible schedule and have our kiddos with us. She had everything in the world going for her.

But then she got sick. Really, really sick. Really, really fast.

That Fall, we were all on vacation having the time of our lives…a month later, she began to have allergy-like symptoms, and then within a few weeks of feeling ill, she suddenly and unexpectedly died of Wegener’s Granulomatosis (GPA) – a very rare autoimmune disease that was only named in 1939.

Thanksgiving has never been the same since…and believe me, I have really tried.

I’ve tried vacationing during Thanksgiving to get my mind off of it – to no avail. Then I tried going on a Disney vacation…the happiest place on earth…and during that trip, I had to go to the Urgent Center since I was so sick. In fact, the first several years after my sister’s death, I’d wake up every year around 4am and become violently ill. There has never been a Thanksgiving since that I haven’t gotten sick or felt major anxiety.

The last Thanksgiving morning she was alive, she had her nurse call us around 4am and ask us to immediately come to the hospital to be with her. We threw our clothes on and got there…only to be blocked from seeing her by her medical team.

Then the Code Blue came…and they revived her. And then the final Code Blue came…and she was gone.

I guess my body remembers the 4am time – and that whole morning – because every year since, I have become extremely ill or anxious each Thanksgiving from 4am-10am.

Frustrated by Thanksgiving, I finally found a way to cope. For years, I have put all of my Christmas decorations up by November 1, so I could just go straight into the Christmas season.

I still celebrate Thanksgiving with my family…and I am extremely thankful for God, my family and friends, and all of life’s blessings…but this has helped me to not focus on the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Although I am super thankful for life, loved ones, and every blessing God lovingly grants me – and although I put on a happy face for the sake of my remaining loved ones…mostly my sweet mom and the kiddos in my life – I just don’t like Thanksgiving.

In October, and up until this week, I was actually looking forward to Thanksgiving…it’s the very first year that I have actually looked forward to it.

I haven’t put up one Christmas tree, ornament, or decoration yet.

I was still feeling anxiety about Thanksgiving, but I was super grateful for the progress of my grief. And it felt good to not experience the yo-yo of grief the last six weeks – especially from all the years I tried so desperately to run away from the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

I’ve spent many years going back and forth trying to make my heart feel something it just didn’t feel.

I think most grievers understand what I’m talking about…especially if they’ve experienced a holiday death. But it’s not just the death of a loved one…it could also be loss of any kind.

But then this week, all of the feelings of dread are starting to creep back.

So the yo-yo is apparently still strong.

I always try to be very transparent in my grief so I can help and encourage others.

I hope this blog post doesn’t come across as whining. I truly hope it helps someone to know they’re not alone in their grief.

Here’s my advice for getting through the Yo-Yo of grief:

  1. Seek God’s heart. It is truly amazing the amount of comfort and love God will shower onto those who love Him! Making God my closest and most treasured Friend has made all the difference in the world! Even during times when I don’t think a grief situation is fair, He patiently and lovingly always directs me in the right way. I can’t stress this enough…when you feel like you don’t want to trust His plan, always trust His great heart! Fight for your relationship with God…never give up on the true Treasure of His Friendship!
  2. Be true to your grief. Don’t force yourself to feel anything that isn’t authentic. If you feel sad, honor that sadness. If you feel fine, don’t feel guilty for having a good holiday…it doesn’t mean you love someone less. Good days & good holidays are truly a gift…embrace them when they come!
  3. Share with your family and friends where you are at in your grief…and don’t be ashamed of your grief. Don’t assume they should know or that they should instantly understand…take the time to share your heart.
  4. Don’t make family or close friends be mind readers. Tell them what you need so you will have the ability and support you need to get through the day.
  5. Do only what you feel you can truly do. It’s totally okay to have a relaxed holiday. If you’ve lost someone very close to you, it can take awhile to find a “new normal” for life and holidays…and sometimes the “new normal” you found can suddenly change and need readjusting. It’s okay not to always be okay…and that is totally FINE!! Be gentle with your heart!
  6. Light a memory candle in honor of your loved one…or do something special to “include” their memory. I have found that lighting a memory candle is a very special way of including my loved ones – it’s a beautiful way of saying, “I love you…I miss you…I will never forget you…I sure wish you were here!”
  7. NEVER apologize for your grief. If other people are uncomfortable with you honoring your grief or loved one, well tough. Lovingly remind them that you didn’t sign up for your grief experience…you’re doing what you need to do to get through it. So they’re frustrated? Kindly remind them that you’re frustrated too. Losing a loved one is the highest price you pay for loving someone…just because a loved one dies, your love doesn’t die too. People sometimes forget that.❤️
  8. Be careful to not create future guilt or regrets. I love the quote, “Even though I am grieving, the clock is still ticking, and that’s why I keep living purposefully.” I take the time to truly honor my grief, but I also make a very purposeful choice to celebrate and extravagantly love my remaining loved ones. Just like my sister suddenly died, I realize that is a possibility for everyone else I know too…so I make sure not to isolate myself and I choose to make the most of Thanksgiving and other holidays. I’m very authentic about my grief, I honor my grief…but I also honor my loved ones who are here as well.

This Thanksgiving, I am praying for all of the Grief Bites Family! May you highly treasure God, enjoy your remaining loved ones, and honor & remember your treasured loved ones who are no longer on earth.

Wishing all of you a very peaceful, special, joy-filled, and loving Thanksgiving Day!!

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!For more encouragement: ❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

❤️

7 TIPS FOR HELPING A GRIEVING LOVED ONE DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Do you know of someone who is hurting due to the death of a loved one, an illness, divorce, family conflict, or an unexpected life challenge or crisis?

The holidays are very hectic for most people, but they become extra challenging for those going through grief.

When family and friends offer kindness and encouragement, it can make all the difference in the world to those who are hurting.

Whether the person who is grieving is a family member, friend, fellow church member, coworker, acquaintance, or neighbor, you have the AMAZING opportunity to offer compassion, support, and HOPE this holiday season.

Choose to be a BLESSING!

Think about each of these tips, and while you’re reading them, think of who you can bless – starting this week!

Here are 7 practical tips for helping a grieving loved one during the holidays~

1. Offer encouragement to the person who is going through grief by sending them an I’m-thinking-of-you card or a phone call. Whether they lost a loved one a week ago or many years ago, their loved one will always be treasured and missed. The holidays can be a painful reminder of the fact that their loved one is no longer here. If possible, refrain from sending over-the-top cheerful holiday greetings and cards if their loss is recent. Instead, send a more peace-filled greeting card with a special heartfelt note.

2. Stay away from cliches such as, “They’re in a better place”, “God needed an angel”, or “God must have needed them more.” Although these statements are intended to make the grieving one feel better, it will often leave them hurting and frustrated. Try encouraging your loved one with loving words of remembrance such as, “I really miss _____, she/he was a such a wonderful person” or “I remember when we ________.” Reflection on the deceased loved one brings validation to family members left behind that their loved one was important, is missed, and that they are still cared about. Most who have gone through grief still enjoy talking about their loved one. Bringing their loved one up is welcomed by most. You’re not going to hurt them by bringing up their loved one…their loved one is already on their heart. Also, at all costs, never say (or even suggest) to someone who is going through grief to “get over it.” That’s worse than all cliches combined.

3. Take the bereaved person a Christmas wreath, cookies, or a Christmas flower arrangement, and while there, maybe offer to do errands for them. A small kindness and helpful gesture goes a very long way in cheering someone up who is going through grief.

4. Invite them to attend your Christmas church service, family holiday dinner, or join in your Christmas festivities. Peace, comfort, encouragement, and loving relationships are important to offer to the bereaved during the holidays. A griever may want to attend church, but may not have anyone to attend with. Sometimes, traditional family dinners can be challenging too. If you are a close enough family member or friend, they may welcome an opportunity for a new place and environment to go to for church, dinner, or holiday celebrations.

5. Invite your grieving loved one to a holiday movie, out for coffee, to a Christmas church service, to see The Nutcracker, to dinner, or to go shopping with you. When someone is going through grief, they lose contact with the outside world as they are immersed in their pain. Many times, people do not know what to say to someone who is going through grief so they avoid seeing them altogether. Please let them know you care. An invitation will speak volumes of your love and concern for them.

6. Be patient with those in grief. Life as they once knew it has drastically changed. It takes time to find a new “normal” and to thoroughly understand the full impact their grief and loss will have. Allow them the time they individually need to grieve. Everybody grieves differently and that’s perfectly fine. Please do not become frustrated with someone who is in grief…trust me, they’re frustrated, too! Support, love, and encourage them.

7. Simply listen and be there. Sometimes, the best thing someone can do for a griever is to give them a hug with the gift of silence and a listening ear, and simply let them know someone truly cares. No words necessary…just be truly, genuinely caring and be a good listener. We all desperately want to say the magic words that will comfort loved ones in grief, but there simply are no words that can magically remove their heartache and pain. A trustworthy listening ear is more important than most people realize.

Please consider whose life (and heart) you can make a difference in this week! Think of someone you know who is going through a hard time and then offer them hope and encouragement.

Have a very blessed and meaningful holiday season!

Gratitude & many blessings,
Kim 🦃🎄❤️🎄🦃

©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!🎄

❤️For more encouragement:
⭐️ <u
p://peacewithgod.net

🎄Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

⭐️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

🎄Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617

⭐️FREE YouVersion reading plan:

Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays🎄❤️🎄

Honoring Loved Ones Through Traditions, Kindness, & Encouragement

“Grief starts to become indulgent, and it doesn’t serve anyone, and it’s painful. But if you transform it into remembrance, then you’re magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to other people, so they can experience something of that person.” ~Patti Smith

 

I saw this great quote today and really loved it!

If anyone has read my book, Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You, then it is clearly known that I am a big advocate for remembering and honoring special loved ones who have passed away.

After my sister died from a short 3 week illness on Thanksgiving Day, I was absolutely despondent…it went beyond depression. We were best friends while growing up and did everything together. After she got married, I still talked to her on the phone every day and saw her several times a week. After she died, I felt her absence in an indescribably painful way.

The things we used to do together that we once greatly enjoyed, now brought intense heartache…and we did most everything together, so her death completely rocked my world.

One of the things we loved to do together was bake…we had always baked treats together since we were in elementary school. In fact, at the time of her death, we were planning on opening a home based bakery and candy making business.

The night before my sister died, I had two choices: go visit her in the hospital or go home to bake some of her favorite Thanksgiving treats to surprise her with at the hospital the next day.

I chose the latter…and regretted it for many years. I had no idea how sick she truly was and I truly despised myself for not choosing to go see her. The guilt and regret haunted me for years, so much that I specifically chose to not make the items I had baked for her ever again.

One day, years later, a thought came to mind…my sister would not want me to be overcome with guilt or regrets. She loved life and she would want me to do the same. She was in Heaven and was totally not upset at all. What once may have upset her on earth doesn’t upset her now in Heaven. She understood I was trying to do something nice for her…and she knew that if I was given all the facts, I would have instantly chosen to go see her and spend as much time with her as I could.

Grief truly teaches you powerful lessons. One of my greatest lessons was to put people first, above everything else.

After realizing that had I known better, I would have chosen better, I made the important decision to honor my sister’s life through doing things she enjoyed while on earth…and one of those things was to continue baking. I decided I was going to honor my sister’s memory by blessing other people with baked goods.

That very day, I made all four of the items I had made for my sister and brought them to a family dinner that my sister’s young daughters attended. The next day, I made the four items again and gave them to people who I knew were having a tough time in life. I found that I could honor my sister through encouraging others with the gift of baked goods.

I couldn’t believe how healing it was. It brought so much healing and freedom to my grief recovery that I wrote an entire chapter about it in my book and I frequently speak about this very topic at grief seminars.

Enjoying life through traditions and honoring loved ones was key to breaking through my greatest monumental grief plateaus.

 

Today, if you are greatly missing your loved one, consider doing an activity you once enjoyed together, a kind deed for someone, or offer encouragement in your loved one’s honor.

Choosing to bake treats for people who I sense are going through grief, especially around the holidays, is something I now enjoy doing.

Sometimes, I’ll anonymously pay for someone’s coffee behind me at Starbucks in my loved one’s honor.

I also go to a mexican restaurant every year on my sister’s birthday…and have a GREAT time in her honor.

Every Christmas, our family gets dressed up in pajamas and go look at Christmas lights together in honor of the tradition my dad started before he died.

 

I have my own post-grief  life filled with my own original activities and traditions, and I choose to not stay stagnant in the past, but I also enjoy incorporating old traditions and things I previously enjoyed doing with my loved ones too. It is a meaningful way to say, “You meant a lot to me. Thank you so much for all of our good memories together. I loved you then and I still love you now so I am going to honor and continue to remember you.”

 

Sometimes, it can be difficult for grievers to honor their loved one(s) if there are guilt and regrets involved or if there were problems that were not worked out before a loved one’s death.

There have been times that I have had to forgive myself so I was able to press forward through my grief. Choosing to work out my guilt and regrets has truly been heart and life transforming.

We all make mistakes, and we all could forever dwell on the things we did wrong, but that ultimately accomplishes nothing. It just creates and brings about further loss and heartache.

Transforming our thoughts to think of all of the things we did right, how well we did love our loved ones, remembering all of the good times, and thinking of ways we can honor our loved one(s) is much more beneficial.

It is so important to remember that our loved ones do not harbor any negative feelings towards us. They completely forgive us.

We can stay stagnant in guilt and regrets or we can choose to bless another person, and our own hearts, by making a difference in the lives of others.

Through offering kindness and encouragement to others who are going through loss, you truly can make a difference.

I can’t think of a better way to truly honor my loved ones. I think they’d be very happy to know that I learned powerful life lessons through their deaths, that I still choose to enjoy the activities I once enjoyed with them…and I choose to thoroughly enjoy life itself…and that I choose to make the world a better place by encouraging others in their honor.