Archive for the ‘Surviving the Holidays’ Category

By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

414-651-2737    petereinl@churchandchapel.us    www.churchandchapel.com


I resolve to…

  • Grieve as much and for as long as I need to, and I will not let others put a time table on my grief.
  • Mourn this loss by fully experiencing my feelings and expressing them in healthy and appropriate ways with trusted others.
  • Ignore those who try to tell me what I should or should not be feeling, and how I should and should not be behaving.
  • Cry if I need to and/or want to, whenever and wherever I feel like crying. I will not stuff the tears of my grief.
  • Voice my loved one’s name, sharing their stories with friends, family members and others.
  • Lower my expectations of others realizing not everyone knows how I feel, especially those who have not lost someone to death. I will express my needs to others so they don’t have to guess what my needs might be.
  • Stop blaming myself for my loved one’s death, and remind myself, when feelings of guilt are overwhelming, that this is a normal part of the grief process and it will pass.
  • Seek out a support group, other resources or professional help and let go of feeling ashamed or weak in doing so. 
  • Commune with my loved one as I want, in ways that feel comfortable.


I further resolve to…

  • Eat, sleep and exercise every day in order to give my body the strength it will need to help me walk this journey.
  • Remind myself that loss of memory, feelings of disorientation, lack of energy, and a sense of vulnerability are all normal parts of the grief process.
  • Heal, even though it may take a long time and a lot of intentional grief work.
  • Stop trying to recreate life as it was before this loss and move to an acceptance that life as I’ve known it will never be the same again, nor will I ever be the same again.
  • Realize that I will not always make steady progress and when I find myself slipping back into the old moods of despair and depression I’ll remember this is also a very normal part of the grief process.
  • Be happy about something for some part of every day, knowing that at first, I may have to force myself and it may last only a moment.
  • Reach out to help someone else, knowing that helping others will help me to get through my grief.
  • Opt for life, knowing that this is what my loved one would want me to do.

Adapted from the Brooksville Spring Hill, FL , TCF Newsletter



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By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services for Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

  • Think about what you really want to do for the holidays this year – what you are capable of doing this year…Where do you want to spend the holidays and with whom? Etc.…In other words, plan ahead and discuss your plans with the significant people in your life…Hopefully they will understand your needs, but if they don’t, it is very important that you honor what you need this holiday season…


  • ‘No’ is a complete sentence…Your ‘no’ doesn’t need any explanations or justifications…


  • Give yourself permission to do things differently this year…Give yourself permission to not do some things at all this year…


  • Listen to your heart and the voice within you – it’s there for a reason – trust it…Trust what your body is saying as well, it instinctively ‘knows’ what you need…


  • Be careful not to isolate yourself…The temptation to do so can be especially strong during the holidays…Take some time for yourself, but also let those who love you spend time with you…This may take some internal ‘nudging’ on your part, but being with others is as important as spending time alone…’Dose’ yourself and try to find that place of balance inside of you…


  • Realize the absence of your loved one will be especially noticeable and difficult when the rest of the family gathers… It is okay and a good thing to talk about what everyone is thinking; “he / she should be here.” Realize too, in some families this conversation may not be possible since we all grieve differently…Perhaps a symbolic gesture such as a lit candle next to a photo of your loved one set in a prominent place is enough for now…


  • Initiate the exchange of stories about your loved one – folks will feel more apt and comfortable to share stories in your presence if they hear you sharing stories about your loved one…Voice his / her name aloud – in doing so  you give others permission to voice his / her name as well…This is a wonderful way to give and receive the precious gift of additional memories…


  • Allow yourself a ‘way out’…‘Plan your escape’ in case you need it…This means telling the host ahead of time that though you will come, you may need to leave early…Take your own car so you can leave when you wish or enlist someone to drive you agreeing prior on an appointed time to leave…


  • Lower your expectations…be gentle with yourself and with others…


  • Don’t be afraid of your laughter or your tears…They both are signs of your love and your humanity…


  • Breathe – Don’t forget to fully breathe…That may sound silly, but often when we are stressed we breathe very lightly…Full breaths – fully breathing – relaxes and grounds us, and gives us perspective…


  • Perhaps, you might want to try one or two of the following ideas:


  • Take the money you would have spent on a gift for your loved one and buy something for someone in need…


  • Light a candle, or several, in memory of your loved one…


  • Plant a plant to commemorate your loved one. Make the planting into a ritual with invited family and friends. Perhaps purchase a living Christmas Tree this year and use it as your in-house holiday tree…Plant it in Spring and serve punch and cookies after the planting…


  • Set a place for your loved one at the holiday dinner table. Place a candle or flower on the plate in his / her honor…


  • If sending Christmas cards this year, instead of signing their name on the card you might add a symbol of your loved one such as a butterfly, bird, or heart, or you may want to include your loved one’s obituary, or include one of your loved one’s favorite poems or a favorite quote or ‘saying’…

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We give our sincerest thanks to guest blogger Lisa Thompson, who shared this blog from the one-year anniversary of her father’s death. Lisa has some wonderful ideas for sharing your love before it’s too late…read on to find out more.

One year ago today my dad died.

I sat next to him while he laid in bed and took his last breath.

I can remember that moment like it was yesterday.  After realizing his body had finally given up and he was gone, I stood up and walked away toward one of the walls in his relatively small room where the close family members and friends had all gathered.

I had what I can only describe as some sort of weird out of body experience where the entire world just disappeared.  The next thing I remember is hearing this awful, loud, mournful crying.  It took me several moments to realize that the crying I was hearing was coming from me.

It was a sound I had never heard come out of my own mouth before.  I think it was a huge emotional release of some sort – after all those months of losing my dad slowly, of knowing it was just a matter of time before I lost him completely.
To read the entire blog, see photos and video and get Lisa’s DVD template, visit her site: http://blog.portraitartbylisamarie.com/2012/07/one-year-ago-today-my-dad-died-what-im-going-to-do-today/

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Ofrenda del dia de los muertos 7

Image via Wikipedia

Stop in at Horizon’s Grief Resource Center this week as we honor Dia de los Muertos. 

November 1st and 2nd mark the holiday of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which is celebrated in Mexico and the southwest United States. Day of the Dead was originally an Aztec celebration. Instead of fearing death, the Aztec’s believed that death was moving on to a higher level of consciousness. Today, Day of the Dead has a mix of Aztec and Spanish influences. 

Day of the Dead is a holiday meant to honor our deceased relatives. It is believed that during this celebration, our deceased relatives are allowed to reunite with their families. Even though the body is gone, the personality remains. 

Therefore, people decorate elaborate altars with objects that represent what their loved ones liked to do, food and drinks they enjoyed, and pictures of their relatives. In addition, the altars are decorated with candles, flowers, food, toys, candies, little folk art skeletons, and sugar skulls. 

On November 2nd, people celebrate at the cemetery where they clean the tombs, play cards, listen to music, and reminisce about their loved ones. Dia de los Muertos is a day of joy because we know that we are surrounded by our loved ones, both living and deceased. 

Stop in the Grief Center this week to add a purple heart to our Dia de los Muertos display. Purple signifies the pain or grief that we still have, the heart signifying the love we have for our deceased loved ones. Write a message to your loved one, a special memory that you have, or decorate it in honor your loved one. Then hang your heart on our Dia de los Muertos display.

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USA flag at half-mast during Memorial Day. The...

Image via Wikipedia

I spent all day yesterday planting shrubs and laying bark. It is solitary back breaking work which gives you a lot of time with your thoughts. It is what our family always does on Memorial Day weekend. A tradition that I adopted from my parents.

All that thinking time led to thoughts of my father. He was a WWII veteran. He was in the Sea Bees and spent the war years in the South Pacific. My uncles were spread all over the globe. He and his four brothers, WWII veterans, all came home from the war. I was a lucky child. Not only did my father survive, I had my uncles, cousins galore, and lots of stories. I must admit I do not remember listening to the stories as closely as I wish I had now. But the times were good and the memories even better.

As I ponder what those war years must have been like for my grandmother, I can hardly bear the thoughts. You see I have two strong young sons who would be away if war were to break out. It was very apparent to me when Bin Laden was killed and my son texted me late at night. I had not realized how September 11th had impacted him. How tuned in he is to world events. How grown up he is. How vulnerable we are. It could have been my sons and maybe my daughter at war. My babies. How did my grandmother do it?

I wonder what the waiting was like for the women left at home. Mass communication was certainly not what it is today. I doubt that they ever received a phone call. I am not even sure if you could get a call from the South Pacific in 1942. I wonder how long it took to get a letter? I know that my mother worked in a factory. I wonder what she did, what was she making? As you can see I did not listen very well to the stories, though I do not remember them sharing such details.

I think it is time for a new tradition this Memorial Day weekend. It is time to hear the stories of the war years. This time I will listen. This time I want to know. Lucky for me my mother is still with us, maybe she will be willing to share.

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USA flag at half-mast during Memorial Day. The...

Image via Wikipedia

Memorial Day is fast approaching, and every year it brings about a little bit of melancholy for me. My Grandma owned Memorial Day. More so than any other holiday, I remember her gearing up for the celebration – helping find someone to read off the roll-call of soldiers buried in the tiny rural cemetery, making sure there were exactly the right number of flags and flowers to decorate each grave, recruiting the church ladies to bake sweet treats for the people to enjoy after the march. And on the actual day, my grandma would round up every kid in the church and somehow get them lined up, shortest to tallest, stop traffic on a busy county highway, and parade everyone over to the cemetery to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. 

It seems like a different world. Most people I know take Memorial Day as a long weekend meant to kick off the summer – a reason for Sunday Fun-day and no work on Monday. But I have only missed one Memorial Day service in my life (the year I moved toArizona) and it’s an important tradition for me to keep. 

The year my Grandma died, she was at a hospice in-patient facility on Memorial Day. She had painstakingly hand-written the map of the graves in the cemetery and asked (told?) my mom to take over he duties. That was a hard year, but she was so proud when we visited afterward and reported our success. The next year, after she was gone, I cried through the entire service. 

That was eight years ago. This year my mom asked me if I would read the roll-call of soldiers in front of the church. I remember as a kid wishing and hoping I could someday read the roll. So now, given the opportunity, I feel sad. I wish Grandma was there to see me and hear my practiced voice read each name clearly and without mistake (I hope!) She would be proud that we still place importance on this day. She would have never guessed though, that now, for me, Memorial Day is about her.

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Spring tree

Image by macieklew via Flickr

There are hints of spring in the air. Some warmer days, more sunshine, flowers beginning to pop out of the soil. Many people are expressing happiness and joy at these signs. Often people are surprised with their reaction to the change of the season when they are going through grief. For many, the new season can intensify their grief. Any new sign induces memories of activities enjoyed together during this time of the year, brings reminders of life moving on without this person in your life, and thoughts of what your loved one enjoyed about this time of year.
Acknowledge the sadness that comes with these changes. Know that its normal for grief to intensify right now. Spring brings about some holidays often overlooked as intensifying grief–Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day. Although not as recognized as much as the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza season, these holidays are still significant.
Remember as well to mark the change in the seasons in a way that would honor your loved one. One lady told me that she is planting a memorial garden in honor of her husband. Another is looking forward to getting outdoors to do some of the activities she shared with her husband. Although it will be a mix of sadness and joy in doing these activities alone, she stated that they bring her joy as well because they meant so much to both of them.
And if you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for about spring, this might help. A co-worker told me this week that it is 7.5 months until December. That we get a break from the winter of life and the winter of grief with more sunshine and warmer weather is something remarkable. And worth a small token of thanksgiving.

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