Expert Shares Tips on Coping With Grief During the Holidays
While people are flooding the local shopping malls and celebrating the holidays, people who have lost a parent, child or spouse are grieving and not quite sure how they will make it through the holidays.
Mary Jamerino, grief expert and bereavement counselor, will discuss Coping During the Holidays at a free community presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday at A. J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home, 2600 Crooks Road (between Maple and Big Beaver) in Troy. Reservations are recommended but not required. Call: 248 362-2500.
Jamerino will be joined by Dr. William Miles, a psychiatrist whose life was shattered when his wife, a pathologist, was diagnosed with cancer and died within three months, leaving him suddenly alone in a new city.
“My wife and I had just moved from Chicago so that she could take on her dream job as an associate dean of the new Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine,” says Miles. “Michele was diagnosed in February and died in June. I was lost. I had no family here and didn’t know anybody. I was living one day at a time for the first six months. I was in pure survival mode.”
What helped Miles to survive was understanding that he had to embrace his grief, talk to other people, and give himself time to grieve.
“You have to feel your grief. If you try to handle it alone or deny your feelings, you are in trouble. It is essential for me to talk about my loss. Don’t think you should feel any particular way. I had a profound sense of disappointment that Michele would never see the medical school open. I was angry. Give yourself time. Today I am searching for meaning in her suffering and mine.”
Jamerino counsels people like Miles to talk openly about their loss and create a path that is personally helpful for their individual needs. Grief, she explains, is a journey that takes a lot of time, courage and endurance especially during the holidays.
“Talk about plans for the holidays including changing or keeping traditions, “ says Jamerino. “Remember, what you decide to do this year can be changed next year.”
Here are some helpful tips for handling grief during the holidays.
- Talk honestly about your feelings.
- Surround yourself with people who understand you are hurting.
- Be patient with yourself; take one minute at a time. Try to relax.
- Talk about the deceased, your memories and the happy times. Sometimes, you need to initiate the conversation.
- Communicate with each other. Sometimes all that is needed is a hug.
- Simplify the holiday season. Avoid planning every detail specifically.
- Remember: time does heal. Others have successfully rebuilt their lives after a loss, and although it is never easy, you can too.
- Be thankful for the blessings of family and friends.
Comforting someone who is grieving
Jamerino offers this advice for relatives, friend or co-worker wanting to comfort someone that is grieving:
- Call them. Leave a message saying that you are thinking of them and ready to help them with their holiday traditions such as shopping or preparing a special dish.
- Send a card letting them know you care about them.
- This holiday season some families – from the young grandchildren to the older parents and friends - will write down and then share memories of the deceased making sure that their loved one always has a place in their minds and hearts.