By Tom Zuba —
My 18-month-old daughter Erin died suddenly on July 18, 1990. Had she lived, we’d be preparing for her 20th birthday this January 2. Even though I had grown up aware that children do die – my own baby brother Danny died when I was just 6 years old – nothing prepared me for my daughter’s death.
I was ill-equipped and ill-prepared as were most, if not all, of the people in my circle. That first holiday season, and the next, and even the next were difficult for my wife and me. I wish someone had handed us the following information. It might have made the journey a little easier. That is my wish for you.
1. Remind yourself that you will survive. You will.
2. Think about what will bring you the most peace.
* Keeping all traditions intact?
* Tweaking some traditions a bit and adding new ones?
* Throwing out all the old traditions and starting new ones?
* Flying to Florida and completely skipping the holidays this year? It’s okay to do that.
3. Don’t expect anyone to mention your deceased loved one by name. Believe it or not, that’s your job. People will look to you to determine whether or not it’s safe to talk about the deceased. A few subtle ways to do that:
* Serve/bring your deceased loved one’s favorite holiday dish – talk about it!
* Bring a favorite picture – pass it around. Work it into the dining table centerpiece.
* Bring a favorite memento – a book, a poem, a watch, a piece of jewelry – share it after dinner.
* Have your loved one’s favorite music playing in the background – tell the story.
4. Plan a special evening for close family and friends when you REMEMBER. Ask everyone to bring a favorite photo and write down a special memory. Set time aside to sit in a circle and share the photos and stories.
5. Remember that it’s okay – it’s even healthy – to cry.
6. It’s okay to stay in bed…you will get out, when you are ready and able.
7. It’s okay to smile or even laugh, a bit or a lot. You’re not being disloyal.
8. Buy yourself a gift. Wrap it. Write a note – to you – from the deceased.
9. Be gentle. Most of all be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can.
10. Light a candle. Hope.