The holidays have arrived. Normally they are a time for family fun and celebration but when you are grieving the loss of someone who has died, the season is different: it is painful.

Grieving is a long process. It takes time to heal from the loss of a loved one. When we are grieving, we can feel completely overwhelmed with sadness, overwhelmed with missing the beloved person who has gone. We long for them. We think we will not survive. So we ask ourselves, “How can I make it through these days?”

Here are some thoughts that have helped me. Maybe they can help you.

For Your Body ~
Rest – Your body has experienced loss. It is exhausted. Take a nap when you can. Walking in the sunshine every day, even for just 15 minutes, will help to elevate endorphins. Take some baths instead of quick showers. Eat nourishing foods like a delicious soup and a slice of warm whole-grained bread. Limit your sugar, caffeine and alcohol; they affect mood. Drink generous quantities of water; it restores energy. Get a back massage; it lessens the stress lodged in your muscles. Get and give as many hugs as you can; touch heals. Stroke your pet; it calms the body. Pray, meditate, breathe deeply, practice yoga, and exercise; it brings you home to yourself.

For Your Mind ~
Start a new tradition – If you don’t have small children to attend to, simplify the decorations – an aromatic wreath on your front door and bakery purchased cookies are more than enough. Keep these days simple and peaceful: if you have always prepared a big sit-down meal, have a little brunch instead.

Carve out some time for yourself, such as an overnight to the beach or the mountains with your prayers, your journal, your favorite inspirational books and your music. I browse the shelves of our local library; it is calming for me. If being around other people helps, seek them; people like to be asked for help; it makes them feel useful when they don’t know what to do. Watch any movie that makes you laugh; you need to help your process along. Lastly, find a person to share your sorrow with, whether a friend, a spouse, a minister, a priest, a rabbi, a clergyman, or a counselor.

For Your Spirit ~
First, give compassion to yourself. Remind yourself that you did a good job loving the departed person and trust they are now safe and free. Second, be around those people whom you love and who love you; they will soothe your weary soul. But remember, you are vulnerable now and a remark from an insensitive person will injure you as never before.

Attend church, or synagogue, or temple, and pray for the departed, for yourself and your family. Pray for peace, pray for faith, pray for grace, pray for forgiveness. Have a small ritual that not only acknowledges the continued spiritual presence of the deceased but a ritual that you know would make them happy, too. An idea to celebrate the person that you have lost during the season would be to get every member of the family together and bake their favorite cake, pie or cookies, then sit down with tea or hot chocolate or cold milk and share happy holiday memories. Maybe family photos or mementos could be brought out. Tears may come but let them; they open up the gates for laughter and hope. In our family, we talk about our Katie with our three precious grandchildren so that they have a chance to know her through our remembrances. She is their Aunt Katie in heaven with God now. Katie loved the magic that children bring and she would love how we have opened our hearts to this chapter in our lives.

When we remember that no one’s spirit ever dies, we will feel the light of confidence and direction shift in our souls. Yes, we acknowledge that our life is not the same without the person who has died,?and we know that we will miss them forever. But we are grateful, so very grateful for having had the blessing of them in our lives. We honor our deceased by loving those still in our life and by making every day matter.

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Mary Jane Hurley Brant

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S.,CGP, is a practicing psychotherapist for 37 years who specializes in grief. She is author of the book, When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss and Life. In this first person narrative M.J. addresses the suicide of her father when she was 13 and the life and death of her daughter, Katie, of a brain tumor. She is the founder of Mothers Finding Meaning Again. MJ can be reached through her website

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