Thursday, November 15, 2012

Handling Holiday Grief

Are you already dreading this upcoming holidays? If so, take heart. You are not alone! And, no---you've not morphed into a Scrooge. Someday you will want to enjoy the holidays again, but this year your reaction is perfectly normal and shows that you are comprehending and getting ready to handle this aspect of your loss. It's not any fun, but you're in a good place. Better to be here, than to pretend it's not bothering you.   
The Empty Chair--Handling grief on holidays and special occasions, by Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeege and Robert C. DeVries, Baker Books, 2001. 91 pages.

      These authors know grief both professionally and personally. Professionally, they are Christian counsellors and authors. And, if you've attended GriefShare, they also are featured personalities on the GriefShare video series.
      Their experience with grief during the holidays is also very personal; they met and married after each of their first spouses died shortly before the holiday season. Robert--- having accidently set a place for his wife at their traditional dinner party, and Susan, who wanted to skip Christmas--- write with practicality and compassion. They liken grief to a forest fire to describe the devastion and the overwhelming dread of facing the holidays. And while I find this book particulary helpful for November and December, this book defines holidays as all the calendar events, like July 4th, Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, etc.; plus the personal days of birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days. Use it all year.
          Each chapter briefly anchors the reader in what they've experienced: the devastation, the ashes, the memories, the hope. Then they share action points and healthy behaviors to implement, plus a page of reflection on Scripture and a written prayer.
      It's a beautiful nugget of a book. It's written to a general audience--for all who have lost any loved one, be it spouse, child, parent or friend. While the readership is assumed to be Christian, there are two candle-lighting memorials to choose from in the appendix of the book--one is non-religious, the other is Christian. Look for The Empty Chair at your local Christian bookstore, at ChristianBook ($8.19), Amazon ($9.99) and GriefShare ($8.79). Prices were in effect on 10/31/12 and do not include shipping.
Often, the anticipation is worse than the actual event. But it helps to prepare. I hope to mention other helpful resources for facing the holidays in the days and weeks to come. If you have some favorite titles, events to attend, or techniques you've found helpful, please let me know in the comment box or by email. Thanks so much, ferree

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