By Coralease Ruff —

Many of us can exhale now that Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa and other winter holidays have come and gone. Some have survived their first big holiday season since the death of their loved one. It is no surprise, however, that there are other special days coming that may be equally as difficult. During these times you may be hurting so badly that you have neither the interest nor the energy to do anything. Then don’t. If that is your wish, you should feel free to choose not to observe the holidays.

On the other hand, it may be helpful to plan to do something on those special days. This can be something as simple as lighting a candle, getting together with a close friend, visiting a shut-in neighbor, visiting the cemetery, or just going for a walk. It may also be helpful to do something completely different, such as taking a trip out of town or out of the country, going to a resort or skiing in the mountains. If you can’t travel, then change the scenery: go to a concert, the zoo, the movies or some other distracting/neutral place. This may not erase your pain, but it may lessen it somewhat.

Trying to recreate the past makes the loss more pronounced, whereas changing traditions can be freeing and satisfying. You will survive the special day even though it may hurt a lot. Eventually you will heal. Then your memories will persist without pain and take their rightful place in your new life.

Keep in mind that it is also okay to have a good time. While grieving, we often feel guilty about having fun. Don?t deny yourself a happy life because your child or other loved one has died. If you can, then do enjoy the holidays and every day. Death teaches us that every day of life is precious. The best gift we can give ourselves and our child is to live life to the fullest and remember they would want us to be happy.

It may also be helpful to identify things and events that make us sad and take steps to avoid them. It is equally important to identify things that make us feel good. Some find it helpful to carry a special letter, poem or quote to read when the going gets tough. One example is the 23rd Psalm.

Other things that can make bereaved parents and other grievers feel better include pampering themselves in small ways such as a bubble bath, a massage, manicure or new hairstyle. Even when you don’t feel like doing so, this personal attention can help to lift the spirits. In addition, it is helpful to give yourself small rewards along the way something to look forward to, such as going to or renting a movie, buying or checking out a good book, or listening to your favorite music.

A short trip can provide a much needed change of scenery. However, don’t expect too much too soon because grief is pervasive and usually will continue to remain with us for some time to come. Other things to do include inviting someone to be a telephone buddy, planning some time alone, listening to music, taking a day off, creating a memory book, planting something as a living memorial or doing something in a place that your child would have enjoyed. Engaging in an activity that is a personal favorite of our child makes us feel closer to the child.

These are just some of many strategies for dealing with special days and holidays when we are grieving.

Excerpts from: C. Ruff’s Her Light Still Shines, iUniverse Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN. 2008.

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Coralease Ruff

Dr. Coralease Ruff is a Bereavement Facilitator, A Registered Nurse, a University Professor and an International Nursing Consultant. She and her husband became bereaved parents in 1997, following the death of their 21-year old daughter in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic. Since then, she has been involved in the Compassionate Friends Inc. in many roles. Coralease is a frequent presenter on grief topics locally and nationally including The Compassionate Friends (TCF) National Conferences, the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association and The Society of Childhood Emergencies as well as local universities, churches and community centers. She has held faculty positions at Catholic University, University of Washington, The Catholic University and is currently Professor Emeritus at Howard University. She is an end of life nursing educator and developed and currently teaches a university course on Grief and Loss to graduate and undergraduate nursing students. She has published widely in professional nursing literature and the lay press. Her grief articles include Grieving through the Years; When the Nurse is Grieving and Finding Help and Hope in the Aftermath of the Virginia Tech Tragedy. She combined a biography of her daughter with a grief handbook entitled; Her Light Still Shines which is published by iUniverse and will be available in bookstores soon. Dr. Coralease Ruff appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss, Grief and Your Health: Taking Care of Yourself. To hear this interview, click on the following link: Dr. Coralease Ruff appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss, Coping with the Sudden Death of a Child in a Foreign Country. To hear this interview, go to the following link:

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