Dealing With Grief During the Holidays

This is an excerpt from my book: Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One:

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The first year of grief after the loss of a spouse or a life mate is hard because our grief is so new and so raw that it’s all we can do to take one painful breath at a time. All the firsts we experience during this period can make things even harder.

The first holidays are painful. The first wedding anniversary, the first birthdays, the first major holidays. Each of these days brings a greater sense of grief because we are intensely aware that our life mate is not here to experience these once-happy holidays with us. Whatever traditions we developed together become obsolete when only one of us remains to carry on. The pain and the yearning to be together once more during these times can be devastating.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Years are the big holidays with the biggest challenges. These special days are family celebrations, and often we are left alone with our memories and our feelings, even if we are surrounded by family.

After Jeff died, I went to take care of my ninety-three-year-old father. That first Thanksgiving, my brothers and sisters-in-law came to have dinner with us. I felt awkward because my widowed father sat at one end of the table, and I sat at the other end in my mother’s place, even performed her hostess duties. Despite that weirdness, it was a nice meal, but as the guests were leaving, two by two, I fell into a deep crevice of grief that took a couple of weeks to crawl out of.

Christmas is even more challenging because if we do opt to join the family in festivities, assuming we have such an option and want to make use of it, our families don’t know what to say to us. They are afraid of saying “Merry Christmas,” because they know there can be no merriment for us. Their fumbling to find something to say makes us so much more conscious of our situation than the rote greeting, “Merry Christmas,” would have done. After all, no one truly is wishing us, or anyone, merriment. It’s simply the thing we say.

We each have to find our own way to deal with the holidays. Talking to someone about our loved one, perhaps sharing a special memory can help, and if there is no one to talk to, writing a letter to our deceased mate can make the upsurge of grief around the holidays easier to handle. There is great power in writing to our dead because it gives us a sense of connection and continuity. We are verbal creatures, so putting our feelings into words can be therapeutic and can decrease the stress of the holidays.

Sometimes we grievers find comfort in doing things the way we always did because it makes us feel closer to our departed loved one. Sometimes we need to create new traditions for us alone, which is how I dealt with the days.

Jeff loved Christmas lights, and since he still lived in my heart, or so people said, I took him for a walk that first Christmas Eve and showed him the abundance of lavishly decorated houses in the neighborhood. As fanciful a notion as that was, it helped.

Over time, as we build new memories on top of the old ones, the emotional resonance of the holidays and anniversaries diminishes, as does the dread leading up to these days. The upsurges of grief we experience soften to a feeling of nostalgia and even gratitude that once we were loved, once had someone to love, once had someone with whom to share our life.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

GRIEF: THE INSIDE STORY is now available!

Coping with the death of a loved one can be the most traumatic and stressful situation most people ever deal with. As the bereaved struggle to make sense of their new situation, they often find that the advice they receive is produced by medical professionals who have never personally experienced grief, is filled with platitudes and clichés, and is of very little practical help.

How long does grief last? What can I do to help myself? Are there really five stages of grief? Why can’t other people understand how I feel? Will I ever be happy again? Grief: The Inside Story answers such questions while debunking many established beliefs about what grief is, how it affects those left behind, and how to adjust to a world that no longer contains your loved one.

Although the subtitle is “A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One,” the book is written especially for those who have lost someone intrinsic to their lives, such as a spouse or life mate, and who now struggle to cope with their new realities. People always want grievers to “get back to normal,” but as Grief: The Inside Story shows, there is no “normal” to get back to back to, but grievers can eventually find renewal in their lives.

Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Inside-Story-Guide-Surviving/dp/0368039668/

If you have read the book and it proved valuable, please leave a review. The more reviews, the more visible this necessary book will become. Thank you.

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Pat Bertram is the also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Twitter. (@PatBertram) Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Video Trailer for “Grief: The Inside Story”

Spreading the News

I’ve joined a new online site, Quora.com, to help spread my message of the importance of grieving and perhaps to find readers for my new grief book: Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One.

Much of what is written about grief is either shrouded in dense scientific terminology or filled with meaningless platitudes and slogans. Very little relates to the lived experience of grief, leaving many bereaved bewildered and troubled by the unhelpful advice they are given, which makes my book — and my mission — so important.

Quora is a question and answer site where anyone can ask a question, and anyone can answer.

For example, someone asked: How do you stop missing deceased loved ones? I responded:

I don’t think you ever stop missing deceased loved ones because they are always gone. The miracle of grief is that grief will diminish with time, rather than continue growing. Since every year takes us further from our beloved mate, it would seem as if the pain of loss should deepen, like layers of watercolor washed one on top the other until the shape of the missing part of one’s life is darkly hued. And yet, through some miracle of grief, our pain does not increase through the years, but instead, the watercolors lay softly on our lives, reminding us of what we had, reminding us of the loved one we still yearn for.

However, that being said, one way to stop missing them so much is to do new things, things you would not have done while that loved one was alive. Travel someplace you would never have gone with the deceased. Try something you would not have done if they were alive (in my case, it was dance classes). Every new memory you make takes you one step further from the past and one step further into a future where you can still miss the person but live a happy and fulfilled life. For example, if you have strong memories of the loved on Christmas, create a new tradition for yourself alone.

My profile on Quora is: https://www.quora.com/profile/Pat-Bertram-1 If you too are on Quora, please follow me so I can follow you.

Another way you can help me spread the news about Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One is to post a review on Amazon after you have read the book. The more reviews, the more Amazon’s algorithms kick in, and the more people see the book.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

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Pat Bertram is the also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Twitter. (@PatBertram) Like Pat on Facebook.

GRIEF: THE INSIDE STORY has now been published!

Coping with the death of a loved one can be the most traumatic and stressful situation most people ever deal with. As the bereaved struggle to make sense of their new situation, they often find that the advice they receive is produced by medical professionals who have never personally experienced grief and is filled with platitudes and clichés, and very little practical help. How long does grief last? What can I do to help myself? Are there really five stages of grief? Why can’t other people understand how I feel? Will I ever be happy again?

Grief: The Inside Story debunks many established beliefs about what grief is, how it affects those left behind, and how to adjust to a world that no longer contains your loved one.

Although the subtitle is “A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One,” the book is aimed at those who have lost someone intrinsic to their lives, such as a spouse or life mate, and who now struggle to cope with their new realities. People always want grievers to “get back to normal,” but as Grief: The Inside Story shows, there is no “normal” to get back to back to, but grievers can eventually find renewal in their lives.

For those of you who read — a appreciated — the manuscript (working title “Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief”) please leave a review on Amazon. The more reviews, the better chance Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One will have of getting into the hands of those who need it. Thank you.

You can find Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One here: https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Inside-Story-Guide-Surviving/dp/0368039668/

***

Pat Bertram is the also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Twitter. (@PatBertram) Like Pat on Facebook.