How do you get through the holidays while grieving? As 2018 is coming to an end, the Holiday Season approaches. In previous years, this might have been a time full of joy and excitement, gathering and festivities. This can be much different however when experiencing grief. The holiday season may instead be very overwhelming- perhaps even a dreaded nightmare. When someone has died in our life, it can take a great deal of time to adjust, and the first few years can be the hardest. My hope is that this list of activities and suggestions might be helpful for those of you who are dealing with your grief this holiday season, or for others who are supporting someone who is grieving.

For those who are grieving:

  • Make plans. Even if you feel as though you don’t want to, it is much easier to cancel on your plans last minute, than wish you had somewhere to go and you don’t. See if you can connect with someone close to you to make plans, with both of you knowing that if you are not feeling up to it, you may cancel last minute, and that’s ok.
  • Acknowledge the person who is missing from the holidays. Perhaps this is talking about them over the holiday meals, talking with others who knew them, or having a photo or item of theirs present during this time. Some people have saved that person’s seat at the table, or even placed a framed photo of them in their spot to keep their presence known.
  • Make their favourite meal. The holiday times tend to be filled with shared meals, and making your loved one’s favourite meal can be one way of bringing them to the festivities, and creating a space to remember them.
  • Go to their favourite place. Perhaps there was somewhere your person loved to be, or that reminds you of them. Maybe it is where their body or ashes lay, or where they loved to go when they were living. It can even be where you remember them in the home.
  • Play their favourite music, movie or tv show. Sometimes bringing out their favourite forms of entertainment can connect us to memories and to them.
  • Take time to think about them. Sometimes this is just what the mind, body and soul ordered. Time taken to just sit and think about them can remind us that the person who died, lived; and they mattered to you. Spending purposeful time thinking about them is very important in the grieving process, and doing so over the holidays can help to manage this season without them.

For those who are supporting someone who is grieving:

  • Make plans with the person who is grieving. They might be hesitant or even insistent that they don’t want to- I encourage you to offer an open invitation nonetheless.
  • Talk about the person who died. It can be hard for the grieving to bring up the person who died for many reasons. Perhaps they think no one wants to talk about it, fear that they might cry, or that others have moved forward with their lives. Starting the conversation can be very welcoming and can give permission to the grieving to talk about the person who died.
  • Offer to go with, or remind the grieving to go to their loved one’s favourite place, or where they lay. It might be comforting to have you attend, or to receive the reminder of where they can go to connect with their loved one.
  • Overall, meet the grieving where they are at. You may have many very helpful, heartwarming and open ideas to help them with the grief they may be feeling, but we as supporters cannot tell the grieving how to grieve – they are the ones who tell us how they are grieving and we need to listen to them.

What an experience I was granted this weekend! I was honoured that Josh Black, one of the leading academic researchers in the area of dreams in bereavement, and PhD student at Brock University, presented on his research in grief dreams in Chilliwack, BC! Josh contacted me back in November and shared who he was, gave a brief overview of his current research, and asked me to attend his lecture to learn more. I found this mesmerizing, of course! How could I not attend and learn from someone who has learned so much from individuals experiencing such an unknown common event?

So, what are grief dreams anyways? Grief dreams are dreams that some people have after someone they know dies. In this dream, their person may show up as a symbol, or as their real self, or they might not be in it at all, but there is a dream about loss. Josh shared that he has had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of people who are grieving the loss of their loved ones and beloved pets, and to speak about the dreams they have after someone in their life has died. He discovered that up to 85% of people who are grieving have experienced grief dreams, and that those dreams can be experienced as positive, negative, or both, and that some people never experience a grief dream (and both are completely normal!).

I have the honour and pleasure of exploring and understanding what the grief dreams of my clients have meant for them time and time again. During this training however, I was able to gather more tools and information to better support each of my clients, especially with dreams that cause distress. I was even given the opportunity to try these tips and tricks on my own grief dreams, giving increased meaning and insight as to how helpful they can be!  Thanks to Josh Black, I feel even more excited to support clients with yet another option for them in our time together! If you have experienced grief dreams, and would like to explore them further, please feel free to visit my contact me page to connect and schedule an appointment.

To check out more of Josh Black’s research, listen to his podcast, or to join his Facebook page, where you can share your grief story with hundreds of others, please take a look at his website at www.griefdreams.ca

In the society and culture in which I live, there seems to be this belief that one should not speak ill of the dead; as though death now makes the behaviours and aspects of the deceased null and void. This societal belief, and expression from others, can make grief complicated and prolonged for those who were wronged by the individual who died. I have had the honour of working with clients who struggled to mourn the death of their person because they did not have anything good to say about them, other than they were related. By not allowing someone to speak honestly about the relationship they had with the deceased, discredits the life that the living individual experienced. I try to drive home the understanding that just because someone died, does not mean they are now God, or were so when they were alive. To mourn the death of a person, means to be honest and open about your relationship with them to be able to work through the things that cannot be said, the answers that will no longer be received, and the relationship that can no longer be changed. If you are struggling with the death of someone who you hold anger or difficult emotions towards, please visit my contact me page to schedule an appointment.

Sometimes the hardest part about grieving the loss of someone or something, is needing something from someone close to you and not getting it. Whether that is a hug, a conversation, help… anything. We can get frustrated in needing something from the person next to us and not getting it, EVEN IF we may feel that we are expressing ourselves outwardly. Here’s the thing, no one is a mind reader. No matter how many looks or bodily movements we make, it doesn’t mean the person with you understands what you want and need. Countless times I have heard clients say ‘why doesn’t my partner hug me/talk with me about it/ let me sit by myself/etc.?’ Sometimes this can be so frustrating for my clients, that they report fighting and having angry outbursts that they did not want or mean to have. Every time I hear this, my first question is, ‘Have you asked for what you want? Actually said it to that person?’. More times than not, no one has asked. They have ASSUMED that the other person should know what they want because of the way they are behaving. When this happens, I will continually remind my clients that no one around them is a mind reader, no matter how well they might know us. Therefore, it is imperative that when you want something, I strongly encourage you to ask for it. Worst case scenario: they say no, and you have to look for that support elsewhere. If you yourself are feeling stuck in this position, I encourage you to try this yourself, and if you would like some support in this matter, please feel free to visit my contact me page to make an appointment, as I would very much appreciate the opportunity to help you move through this as you feel comfortable.

Some days, getting out of the house when it is wet and cold just does not seem like a good idea. Some days, you might not feel like talking to others, or just want to relax in front of the TV and watch a movie. Some days, you might feel like you need to have a good cry. Should you find yourself in any of these moments, here is a list of movies that highlight what the loss of a loved one feels like. I hope that in those moments, you feel comforted; you are not alone.

  • Up!
  • Still Alice
  • Sophie’s choice
  • Steel Magnolias
  • Terms of Endearment
  • PS I love you
  • The Notebook
  • The Bucket List
  • Ghost
  • Step Mom
  • The Kite Runner
  • The Descendants
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Patch Adams
  • Seven Pounds
  • My Sister’s Keeper
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven
  • City of Angels
  • Tuesdays with Morrie
  • Lorenzo’s Oil
  • My Girl
  • Sister Cities
  • Little Piece of Heaven
  • Six Feet Under (TV series)
  • My Little Princess

This just a small, varied list of movies that cover different types of death and of loss that I have seen and have loved. I hope that you find one that suits you well and brings comfort and normalcy to what you are currently experiencing.

Should you have any movies that you enjoyed that focus on loss, please feel free to let me know for the next time a list is posted. I am always looking to add to the list to help clients along their journey. Please send any comments, questions or suggestions through my Contact Me page.

Through my work, I have noticed that there becomes this sense of loss after the death ceremony (funeral, burial, celebration, etc.) has ended – as though there is nothing left to do and now each person must sit and experience their grief. Waiting, hoping, that they can get through the next year, and find a way to live without the person now that they have died. It is not about waiting for the year to pass, struggling to get through the painful memories and feelings. It is through turning towards your grief and expressing it to the world that will aid in the journey of life without your person. I hope that some, any of the ideas posted in this blog will help you and your loved ones to honour, acknowledge, and remember your person as you heal your heart and soul. Remember that you do not have to go this journey alone. Please feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment.

The experience we have as human beings after the loss of someone in our lives can, at times, feel unbearable. This is true for both a physical death and a death of a relationship. The relief comes in knowing that those feelings will not last forever; we cannot cry forever, and our hearts will not be broken forever. It is my hope that something, anything in this blog will help alleviate your suffering for a moment; to give you a moment of support, clarity, and relief. Remember that you do not have to go this journey alone. Please feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment.