families, mine will soon gather around the dinner table to celebrate
the holidays. This ritual reinforces shared family values and helps
me feel that, as long as we are together, all is good in my world.
The truth is
that all is not in order in my world, because there will be two
empty chairs where my parents sat last year. As I look around the
table, those two beloved and respected people will not be there. Not
only will their chairs be empty, but so will our hearts. What shall
we do? How can we celebrate without them? What should we say? How do
specialist, Rabbi Mel Grazer wrote in one of his newsletters, "Death
is like a one-two punch: the first punch, he died. The second punch,
he’s not coming back. That is often the harder punch to accept."
grief is the reality that now my siblings and I are the "older"
generation and that it’s up to us to continue to bind together and
lead our family in the way that our parents would want.
Our family is
not unique. Thousands of families will face empty chairs this year.
And each will choose a different way to mourn and eventually to move
on. It's what we must do; it's the cycle of life.
Clinical psychologist, Susan
Dunn helps adults deal with grief. From her recent on-line article,
I gathered a few ideas that might help you and me understand and
deal with holiday grief.
1. When you grieve you
have no energy. You just don’t deal with things well. Things that
used to bother you, don’t anymore. Other things that never bothered
you before can send you into a tailspin. Decisions, even small ones,
are difficult and even the smallest chore takes so much effort.
Planning a holiday celebration incorporates all the above!
2. You have to take
care of yourself even if you don’t feel like it. When you grieve,
your immune system struggles; so eat right, rest, share your grief
and keep things simple.
3. You can cancel
traditional holidays if you want. Do something to take your mind off
your grief: take a trip, have the family gather in a different place
or celebrate in an unusual way. Or, if it feels right, continue the
same traditions and have a small, shared recognition of your loved
4. It might help you to
help someone else – serve dinner through a charity, adopt a family,
set-up a memorial event. Then again, it might not, but at least
you’ll have filled some time.
As Dunn wrote, "Time does heal
many people and it becomes less raw with time; however, if that time
does come, it comes at its own pace. Be forgiving of yourself and
others, and, well, have a holiday. Or don’t. One way or another that
particular day will pass and you will have survived your first
holiday without them."
I have found, "Time is
seamless. It doesn't pause and it will go on without you."