Need tidings of comfort and joy?

Published 12:34 am Sunday, November 6, 2016

When you are grieving the death of a family member or friend, you may dread the holiday season. Thoughts of social gatherings, family traditions and obligations leave you anxious and overwhelmed. The sadness can feel all consuming. Fantasies of skipping the next two months and going straight into the routine of next year may be inviting — but unfortunately, not possible.

A starting point is to become familiar with what emotions to expect. The holidays are stressful even when our lives are not in turmoil, but looking ahead to enduring the holidays with the loss of a loved one can seem unbearable. I want to assure you that you can get through the holidays, and hopefully even find moments of joy.

Another step in surviving the holidays is to create a healthy plan for the coming season. Planning will help you to feel a little control, even though you may feel totally out of control. A healthy plan involves making decisions in advance about traditions, meals, time spent with others, holiday decorating, gift giving and commitments. It is not uncommon to have a lack of energy or interest in doing as much as you have in the past. Deciding ahead of time which invitations you will accept and letting people know you might leave early can aid in providing you options in difficult or uncomfortable situations. Make a list of every holiday tradition you can think of and then decide which traditions will be too difficult. There may be some traditions you wish to maintain and new traditions to start.

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Guard against putting on a mask and pretending things are fine. Putting on a happy face in fear hampering everyone else’s joy can be a heavier burden emotionally.

Your friends may want you to “cheer up” and “have fun” when that is the last thing you want. Others will avoid you because they don’t know what to say and don’t want to make you feel worse. You may be given wrong advice in a misguided attempt to help. All of these people mean well, but will only end up hurting you if you don’t communicate what you truly need from them.

As difficult as this may be, it is important to tell people what they can do to help and what they are doing that isn’t helping. And if you don’t have the energy or inclination to talk to people face-to-face, then write your thoughts, concerns and needs in a letter or email. What is important is that you are being honest and gracious in your communication.

So where can you find out what emotions to expect over the holidays, how to create a healthy plan and how to communicate with family and friends these coming weeks?

A “Surviving the Holidays” GriefShare seminar will be from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Parkway Baptist Church.

The seminar is a free of charge and offers practical, actionable strategies for making it through the holiday season. At this two-hour seminar, you will view a video featuring advice from people who have faced the holidays after their loss. You will hear insights from respected Christian counselors, pastors and psychologists. You will receive a

Holiday Survival Guide with practical strategies, encouraging words, helpful exercises, Q&As and journaling ideas for daily survival through the holiday season.

At “ GriefShare Surviving the Holidays” you will meet with others who are experiencing grief who have an understanding of what you are going through. You will not be judged or forced to share, but will be accepted wherever you are at in your journey. There are many different ways that people grieve.

The holiday season will not be easy; your emotions may ambush you and suck you under at times. But you can chose to walk through this season in a way the honors you loved one(s) and puts you on the path to health and healing.

To find out more about “GriefShare Surviving the Holidays,” call Parkway Baptist Church at 601-442-7434. No reservations are needed. Simply come to the courtyard and enter through the side door on your left. We will be awaiting your arrival.

Kim A. Kaiser is GriefShare participant.