BY JACKIE HOOK
December 23, 2018
As part of my outreach for the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program, Evelyn Wald, a licensed professional counselor at Individual and Family CHOICES, and I facilitated a Healing through the Holidays education and support program. From our discussions at these sessions, a list of holiday tips emerged. Keep in mind that one thing we often discussed was the role of laughter on the grief journey – it can help you through. With this in mind, we created an acronym for our tips – BERP! Burps move gas from the inside to the outside, and BERPs move grief from the inside to the outside. We hope you find the humor in this acronym and retain some of these ideas.
If you or someone you know is mourning the death of a loved one this holiday season, we invite you to consider these tips:
- Balance grieving and participating with life AND having old and making new traditions –What’s important is finding a balance and not getting stuck. If you feel stuck, mental health professionals can help.
- Be present – When we are present, we can notice what we’re feeling, hold that feeling with loving kindness as we would a child running to us after getting hurt and release what we are able.
- Be open – When we hold onto something tightly with our hands, it takes energy. When we release our grip and open our hands, it takes less energy and our hands are now open to receive. The same can be true with our thoughts and emotions. When we hold tightly to expectations, could have’s, would have’s, should have’s and if only’s, it takes a lot of energy and we don’t receive the life, love and light that is available to us in any given moment.
- Be curious – Instead of asking the unanswerable questions – When will this grieving end? Why did my loved one have to die?, etc. – ask questions from a place of curiosity and wonder – I wonder how I’ll feel doing things differently this year? I wonder what my loved one might want for me?
- Expect hope, love, light and life to appear, if only briefly AND different experiences for yourself and others – Not only do you want to set an intention to look for love, light and life on your grief journey , but you want to expect that they will appear. You also want to expect that your experiences during the holidays will be different from previous years as will those of others who are grieving your loved one as well.
- Remember your loved one – Remembering your loved one is one of your needs as a mourner. You can light a candle in their honor, set a place for them at the holiday table, finish a project they started, make a food they enjoyed, etc.
- Receive and care for yourself where you are – Grief is messy and exhausting. Allow yourself to feel what is stirring inside of you and find healthy ways to move it – journal, talk to a supportive grief companion, go for a walk, etc.
- Reach out and help others – Caring for others can be healing. Get involved in a charity your loved one supported, spend time with someone who could use your help, perform random acts of kindness, etc.
- Return to love – Your loved one may not be physically present, but the love you feel for them still exists. Feel that love while you also find other sources of love in this world.
- Rest and play – As was said earlier, grieving is hard work and the holidays can be tiring too. Make sure you rest and find ways to play. Be gentle with yourself.
- Plan ahead with several options – Think about the holidays and anniversaries of the heart (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) in advance and give yourself Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. Know that when those special days arrive, you can go with one of those plans, a combination of them, or none of them.
- Participate or Pass, it’s your choice and only for now, it could change – You can take part in holiday activities, you can pass or you can change your mind half-way through.
- Practice gratitude – Gratitude can make you feel better. Commit to a gratitude practice of writing down a few things for which you’re grateful each day.
- Provide permission to grieve, for yourself and others – Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to feel what we’re feeling. Allow yourself and others to feel it to heal it. (And for those of you paying attention, the acronym is actually BBBBERRRRRPPPP – more like Will Ferrell’s character in Elf.)
We wish you a meaningful holiday season and hope you find some peace and healing. In addition, we invite you to these upcoming events:
- Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheons on Mondays, January 14 and February 4 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College
- Remembering with Love: A Ceremony Honoring Your Loved One Who Died on Sunday, February 10 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Centre Hills Country Club, 153 Country Club Road, State College
- Tears and Laughter through Loss: A State of the Story and Learning to Live: What’s Your Story? Evening of Storytelling on Monday, February 25 at 7 p.m. at The ATTIC of the State Theatre, 130 West College Avenue, State College. For more information, please visit the Koch Funeral Home website at www.kochfuneralhome.com.
Jackie Hook is a spiritual director and celebrant who coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program with Koch Funeral Home and a member of the Learning to Live: What’s Your Story? initiative. This column is coordinated by www.ltlwys.org whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.
This article first appeared in the Centre Daily Times on Sunday, December 23, 2018.