by Jan McDaniel
Let's flip the switch on holiday tips and use them to get through this year (and beyond). The Alliance of Hope for Survivors of Suicide Loss provides extra support at the end of the year through music, inspiration, and daily tips for surviving the holidays. I write these each year, and these for 2020 should be available a while longer, but this new year brought new challenges related to 2020 world events that include a global pandemic. Those challenges and others are still going on, and many people are grieving. To help you cope with the increase in isolation, stress, and tragedy in 2021, here are my most popular “Top Tips” from the last decade at AOH.
Tackle these one at a time, perhaps one tip a week or one each month.
Remember Your Loved One
Writing is a good way to remember. If you have young children, it is also a way to leave precious memories for them as they grow. Write as much as you like about “I will never forget you because _____________________.”
Plan to Survive
Families and friends might expect you to carry on with traditional celebrations when you do not feel like celebrating anything. Be honest. Let others know you might need to take a break. Tell them you appreciate their invitations but must handle your grief in your own way and time.
Write encouraging quotes on sticky notes and post them around your home and in your car to give yourself courage.
Fold a Paper Crane
Doing something with your hands can help your heart heal. The ancient art of paper-folding is often used to honor the memory of a loved one. Use origami paper or any cut into a square 6 x 6 inches to make a paper crane. If you desire, write a special message or prayer on each and attach to a string. Video instructions can be found online at sites like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=Ux1ECrNDZl4.
Write a Letter
Write a letter to the one you lost. Begin with how you feel right now. Write about what is going on in your life, how things have changed, and how you feel. Talk about the confusion and what you go through every day. Express your love. Write down all those “why” and “what-if” questions. Say what you have wanted to say since it happened. Weave these moments together. What starts as a fragment soon grows into a beautiful patchwork of memories that bring comfort and, one day, perhaps even joy.
Talk to Someone
It often seems like the world is moving on and forgetting about the ones we lost, especially during the holiday season. Find one person to whom you can mention your loved one by name. It may be to share a memory that makes you smile or to tell someone how grateful you are that your loved one received help from that person. If you can’t find someone in your community, post a message at the Alliance of Hope for Survivors of Suicide Loss. Someone will answer. [If your loss is not suicide-related, check out www.GriefShare.org.]
Try Different Music
Music changes mood. If you have not been able to listen to the music you love since your loss, you may be able to find comfort in it again later. Until then, try something different. Keep CDs of calming instrumental music in your car or try a new radio station. Check online for “soaking music” if you would like to hear hymns of faith. These can also help you sleep.
Nourish Your Body
Eating is emotional. Try to reach for healthy food and stay hydrated. If you feel you can’t eat, take small sips of water or soup often. Consult your doctor if you need to because you will need strength on this journey. Build a few meals you like that can nourish your body. And your soul.
Light a Candle
Little rituals are meaningful and help in healing. Take time to become aware of whatever you are doing. Notice your breath, the textures of the things you touch, the small sounds you hear. Be still. Some people find comfort in lighting a candle at times and just thinking about their loved ones.
Sometimes a little escape from the reality of that “new life” can provide just enough rest from grieving to enable us to go on for another day. Whether what we wish for is possible or not, we still yearn for it. This is normal. Tell your loved one what he or she meant to you. Create a vision of what your future could be. Whatever you wish for, you may find more than a little escape. You may find insights and healing and ways to make your real life better.
This year is different in more ways than one. The pandemic affects almost all we do, including grieving and spending time with other people. Solitude is helpful in healing, but sometimes it is good to be with those who care, even via a computer screen or telephone. Connecting online with other survivors is a great way to deal with waves of grief. Reading books or articles about healing keeps you feeling stronger. Make a list of things that might help when pain is at its worst. Keep the list with you. You are not really alone.
Way for Hope
Losing someone you love is difficult, but it can mean a lot to hear from others traveling similar paths.
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Links of Value:
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Word of God
"My Story" Big Daddy Weave
"Hope in Front of Me"
The Joy FM
Traumatic loss or preexisting conditions can worsen mental health. Use this info graphic to find help.
"Take Charge of Your Mental Health" - a free download from www.nami.org: