Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holiday Feelings of Disconnect

I was recently the co-facilitator for an Arbor Hospice grief support group where a participant noted that as more time passes since her mother's death, the more disconnected she feels from her. This was troublesome because the participant wanted to maintain connection with her mother while healing at the same time. In a way, she is receiving mixed messages: grief is supposed to get easier with the passage of time, yet, she feels that she is starting to let go of her mother in a way that she does not wish to.

I spent the rest of the evening pondering this notion of disconnection. Gone are the days where grief counselors are encouraging clients to completely sever the relationship with the deceased in order to heal. Our profession has shifted to the idea of continuing bonds, that is, maintaining a relationship with the deceased. Instead of a relationship of presence, we talk about a relationship of memories. However, there is still a forced, non-negotiable disconnection with our loved ones when we die, and oftentimes it's a disconnection that we do not ask for.

The holidays are upon us and this is a time of year when feelings of disconnection and loneliness may intensify. For me, I have felt an undercurrent of sadness amidst celebration during the months of November and December that I haven't always been able to pinpoint. Is it the colder, darker days? Financial strains of holiday shopping? Anxiety about upcoming family get-togethers? People missing their loved ones? I think it could easily be all of this and then some.

So, what does one do to successfully navigate the holidays while grieving? The simple answer (if there is one) is to try to maintain some sort of connection with your loved one, especially if this will be your first holiday season without them. A former colleague used to encourage her clients to focus on the legacy of their loved on, more so than on the loss. Perhaps a way to stay connected is to continue with one or two holiday traditions your loved one really enjoyed: preparing their favorite Thanksgiving dish, playing their favorite holiday music, or taking over a role they once performed like lighting the candles on the menorah. Though they may be painful, these small acts are a way to keep your loved one alive and present during the holidays.

Arbor Hospice is offering special holiday workshops to provide more tips on coping with the holidays. The final two workshops will take place this Sunday, November 17 from 2-3:30 p.m. If you live near Ann Arbor, consider attending the workshop at Malletts Creek Library (3090 E. Eisenhower Parkway). If you live in the downriver area, consider attending the workshop at our office at 21647 Allen Road in Woodhaven. You can find more information about these workshops on our website.

If you have experienced the death of a loved on, what are some ways you have found helpful in coping with the holidays?

This blog post was written by Becca White, Arbor Hospice Grief Support Coordinator. You may contact Becca by commenting below or emailing her at rwhite@arborhospice.org.

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