When the death of a loved one leads grief to knock on your door, it can be paralyzing. Fortunately, family and friends are usually there to lend support... at least in the short term. But after some days or months, when they return to their own lives, you can be left alone with your feelings and trying to navigate your "new norm." That is when grief becomes more present.
The holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for bereaved individuals because it is supposed to be a celebratory occasion when family and friends come together with great joy... But for those in mourning, it often brings home the realization that things will never be the same. It can be awkward, uncomfortable for you and those around you and even painful. Your family and friends may be afraid to acknowledge your grief for fear that they'll evoke your overwhelming and unpleasant emotions. So instead they stay silent, acting as if nothing had changed -- leaving you feeling angry and alone in your grief.
For those of you who may be dealing with the loss of a loved one this holiday season, I spoke with Fran Solomon, the founder and president of HealGrief.org. She offers the following advice:
Use yours and others' discomfort as an opportunity to express yourself. Let people know that you may cry and you may also laugh; yet regardless, you are grieving. Understand that your grief is individual and cannot translate to others. Grief is a very personal journey and everyone experiences its nuances differently. There are no rules or timetables, and no such thing as a linear progression. Expect the discomfort, but do not fear it or misunderstand it as other people being judgmental or violating your feelings. They are simply doing the best they can.
Also, don't be afraid to ask for help. It's important to let others know your needs in advance. Discuss ahead of time your limitations and expectations of the holiday season, and how your loved ones can best assist you in making it through this challenging period. Then treat yourself and others with kindness.
Fran Solomon knows a lot about grief as a Bereavement Support Expert and founder of HealGrief.org. HealGrief is a web-based community that offers bereaved individuals an opportunity to transition their grief into healthy recovery, from the moment a loved one dies to the many months -- and even years -- that follow. It offers a multitude of resources, including local bereavement groups, information about grieving the loss of a parent/child/spouse/etc, and various ways to memorialize the decedent's life. It is a safe place to express, understand and normalize your grief.
For example, recognizing that community is no longer defined by geographical boundaries, HealGrief can supplement or take the place of a traditional obituary notice. When a loved one passes away, users can create a funeral notice, electronically disseminate it to family and friends around the globe, and gain instant comfort as people begin to offer condolences, light virtual candles, and share memories. This transforms the funeral notice into a celebration of the decedent's life. It is a free service, and individuals can keep the online memorial going for as long as they desire.
Fran Solomon is an entrepreneur with a successful track record in developing small business start-ups. She started HealGrief after a friend began working with a local grief support agency, and Fran found herself drawn to their mission. She received professional training and began facilitating grief support groups in underserved communities. Shortly thereafter, she joined the Board of Directors and proudly served a three-year term as Chair.
During her tenure, Fran would receive random phone calls from grieving friends or those wanting to support them asking, "What do I do/say," "Whom can I call?" "How can I help?" It was then she realized there was a void in information and resources for the bereaved, which ignited her entrepreneurial spirit to create the "go-to" site for bereavement resources.
Fran says, "Grief never goes away; we just learn to manage it differently day-by-day. As tears start to fade, reminiscent moments will bring smiles and laughter back to our days."
Photo credit: Edo Tsoar