This time a year magnifies loss and grief for many people. If you feel tight or heavy in your chest area, a lump in your throat, or headache through the temple area not related to medical conditions, you may be experiencing suppressed grief. You may already know you are grieving the loss of a loved one during this Christmas season. Following are some proactive things you can do to respect, acknowledge, honor, or process your grief related to a specific loss–especially the loss of a loved one. The idea is to move through grief rather than avoid, suppress or go around it.
- Write a letter to your loved one (not with the intent of actual communication but with the intent of closure); read it out loud then respectfully dispose of it; do not keep the letter. You may need to do this several days in a row. The first time may be difficult with more tightening of the chest or crying. Just keep at it and it will get better each time. I originally assigned this to a lady who lost a baby to miscarriage. The letter she wrote was to her baby. This is an especially good technique for people who have lost a baby during pregnancy.
- Create a new tradition that honors your loved one. It does not have to be obvious and it can be a tradition only you know about. If the loss pertains to the whole family the tradition can involve everyone. Some examples include: buying a special outfit for a needy child each year in honor of a child you lost, ringing the bell for Salvation Army each year in honor of your loved one, donating money to a specific charity each year in honor of your loved one, hosting a dinner or gathering in honor of your loved one each year, baking bread or cakes and taking them to shut-in’s in honor of your loved one or volunteering at a soup kitchen in honor of your loved one.
- If your grief is fresh, spend a specific time each day (5 minutes is enough) at a designated time for a specific length of time (5 minutes per day at 3PM for one week) to simply think about, remember and miss your loved one.
- Created a memory book or scrap-book in honor of your loved one.
- Think of anything that leads to moving through the grief, letting go, moving on, or transferring the memory of your loved one from your head to your heart.
DO NOT: Spend time talking directly to a deceased loved one as if they could really hear it. Do not engage in rituals that have the intent of directly communicating with the dead. These types of activities encourage a pathological clinging to the deceased in a way that intensifies the grief and prevents moving forward.
SPECIAL NOTE: It is not unusual to see or hear a loved one after a death for about 2 weeks. This is natural and is not to be feared. On the other hand, if you are having this experience long after a death it is not natural and can be harmful to you emotionally or spiritually (seek professional help if this is happening).
DREAMS: I have noticed with some individuals they will have one dream or spiritual experience involving their deceased loved one. The experience results in grief resolution instantly and the individual is able to move forward. On the other hand, to dream or have spiritual experiences involving your loved one that only result in increased grief, longing or a desire to die– is not natural or in your best interest (seek professional help if this is happening).
I hope you can benefit from some of these ideas or information. If you know of other things that have helped you feel free to comment. Grief is a very personal and difficult experience. Most people appreciate suggestions for moving forward.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: The goal is not to get over your loss but rather to learn to live with it. We never truly “get over” losing someone we love.