Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting Through the Holiday's Without Your Loved One

I will begin by admitting this is my least favorite time of year. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that while alive my mother went overboard during the holidays. She would spend weeks thinking and planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our final holiday together was Christmas, 1988.

Since that time I have immersed myself in keeping those alive whose lives are often in jeopardy as a result of intimate partner violence and stalking. In many ways I have placed my life in the unimportant category so others, strangers really, most of whom I have never met in person, can leave with their life. The ones who are not able to reach me in time or "suddenly" go missing I write about or obtain coverage in the media while working with their families and various agencies in hopes of seeking justice. Knowing and understanding there will never be acceptance or closure while they remain on earth minus their world, the loved one who is never coming back.

With age comes wisdom. But with wisdom you also have memories often returning at times one least expects, the holidays. Missing that special person who is, or has not sat at a table with you since they were alive can be devastating and downright unbearable. Punishing yourself for something you had no control over, is in my opinion, a crime in and of itself.

We are meant to love others living our lives as best we can. Life is too short. In a blink of an eye one turns around and asks, when it is too late, where did the time go?

This year, instead of receiving letters or emails from families grieving, I would like to make a request. Send me your words of joy. Tell me what you did this year differently to honor your loved one. I will, if you do, post your words and pictures.

It is not wrong for you to feel angry, sad, or overwhelmed by impending holidays. Because you are not able to control these changes, you are bound to have feelings that conflict with what you used to feel during holidays. If others around you are not feeling the same, you may feel further alienated. What once made you happy and joyous may now make you feel sad and angry.

It is always difficult to live through holidays in the aftermath of intense tragedy. For victims and survivors, holidays are often marked with pain and anguished memories. What, in the past, may have been a time for family gatherings and celebration will be a time for missing loved ones and a sense of loss.

Plan ahead. Have a backup plan. Embrace the feelings - both good and bad Realize it doesn't have to be the best holiday ever - just get through it! Find something different to do. Go to a buffet instead of fixing the big meal. Leave town. Take the pressure off of yourself - don't fake it. Have reasonable expectations of yourself and others. Add something to your tradition that honors your loved one - light a candle create whatever holiday atmosphere you want and feel comfortable in your decisions.

For people who have lost a loved one, through death, divorce, or even relocation, big holidays throughout the following year often prove painful and difficult. Rituals that brought joy in years past serve instead as stark reminders of missing loved ones."Holidays can reawaken the grieving process," says Marianne Wamboldt, MD, Director of the Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders at National Jewish Medical and Research Center. "It can be extremely painful. But there are ways to cope, things you can do to get through the holidays and even to find comfort.

At holiday time, many people are dealing with loss and are often caught in a dilemma between the need to grieve and the pressure to get into the spirit of the season. Holidays or not, it is important for the bereaved to find ways to take care of themselves. The following guidelines may be helpful:
Express yourself through artwork.
Begin your holiday dinner with a minute of silent prayer and a toast in their honor. Send up a balloon(s) with messages and prayers to your loved one.
During the meal ask the question, "What comes to your mind when you think of (this person)_________?", and share memories with those who surround you.
Plant a tree or a special plant in their honor in your garden or in your home.
Create special Christmas ornaments for your tree and hang a stocking in their honor.
Write a letter or even keep a journal of your thoughts.
Light a candle(s) in their memory.
Place a single flower or bouquet of flowers that your loved one cherished as the centerpiece.
The "Shames" or head candle in the Hanukah celebration can be in honor of your loved one.
Look at pictures (or display pictures) from past holidays shared with your loved one.
View videos, audiotapes and any remembrances, which reflect on the wonderful times you experienced together.

Design a quilt with the memories you have.
Write a brief history of the ups and downs you have experienced in the past year and place it into a Christmas stocking or some memorable cache that you can add to yearly.
Play a favorite song.
Create a sacred alter with photos and treasures where you can sit and reflect.
If you vacation in a special area that you used to go to with your loved one, do something special in honor of them.
Consider volunteering for an organization affiliated with your loved one's illness, hospice or a caregiving program to help others through your own experiences.
Volunteer to help feed the homeless over Thanksgiving & Christmas.
Volunteer to read or spend time with the elderly in nursing homes, hospitals or to read and spend time with children who have terminal illnesses in hospitals.
Donate gifts in your loved one's name. This is even more special when you donate in memory at their birthday, a special anniversary, etc. Offer a scholarship in a loved one's name.

The principle that we should keep in mind is: they may not be here any more, but they are still here.

For those with loved ones still missing, not knowing can in pure hell. OF ALL the agonies that an outrage creates, the worst is not having them found and brought home to rest. It is almost beyond that of loss and grows in the silence of an unanswered telephone.

You can email me at or write me at P.O. Box 14946, Surfside Beach, SC 29587

Susan Murphy Milano is a staff member of the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education as a educator and specialist with intimate partner violence prevention strategies directing prevention for high risk situations and cases.
A national trainer to law enforcement, training officers, prosecutors, judges, legislators, social service providers, healthcare professionals, victim advocates and the faith based community and author.. In partnership with Management Resources Ltd. of New York addressing prevention and solutions within the community to the workplace. Host of The Susan Murphy Milano Show, "Time's Up!" . She is a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated "The Roth Show" with Dr Laurie Roth and a co-host on Crime Wire. Online contributions: Forbes : Crime, She Writes providing commentary about the hottest topics on crime, justice, and law from a woman’s perspective, as well as Time's Up! a blog which searches for solutions (SOS) for victims of crime.

1 comment:

Donna R. Gore said...

Susan: Nothing can take away the fact that God has chosen you to walk this path alone in the name of your mother! However, you have many friends who speak your language and love you (including this writer) just the way you are... Your needs are very important! One of these days you'll know when it's time to put them first!
We feel the pain most acutely during the holidays.... but just knowing you are always there ready to serve people you don't know, truly is the meaning of Thanksgiving..and all the other holidays!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...