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.

Tom Zuba can be reached at [email protected] or through his website:

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Tom Zuba

Tom Zuba

Tom Zuba believes that loss cracks us open, giving us the opportunity to consciously participate in the transformation that awaits us. Tom’s 18-month-old daughter Erin died suddenly in 1990. His 43-year-old wife Trici died equally as suddenly on New Year’s Day 1999 and his 13-year-old son Rory died from brain cancer in 2005. Tom and his teenage son Sean are learning to live a full, joy-filled life, one day at a time. He is an author, inspirational speaker, and workshop facilitator who appeared in April 1999 with best selling author Gary Zukav on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Tom appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” talking about “What Do I Do Now; Dealing with Multiple Loss.” To hear Tom being interviewed, go to the following link:

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