Creating Healing Experiences Since 1929
Oâ€™Connell-Murphy Funeral Homes
December 2013 Newsletter
O'Connell-Murphy Funeral Home 2286 South Park Ave Buffalo, NY 823-0124
Dear Friends, Halloween barely passes before stores stocks their shelves with holiday decorations. Christmas carols echo through shopping malls and the first of the holiday commercials hit the airwaves. If you lost a loved one, these can be stark reminders that the holidays wonâ€™t be the same. Whether your loved one died recently or decades ago, the holidays bring forth powerful memories that may trigger your grief. If the person died on or near a holiday, the two events are forever linked and may be particularly painful, especially if you have unresolved feelings about the lost relationship. On this holiday season I pray for hope, peace and love for you and for your family. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and I hope it helps you deal a little better with the holiday season.
Sincerely, John Murphy
Coping with Grief During the Holidays Robin Fiorelli, VITAS Director of Bereavement and Volunteers • • •
“Who’s going to carve the turkey this year now that Grandpa has died?” “I don’t have the energy or desire to shop, to decorate, or to be around others this year at Christmas.” “I just want to erase Chanukah this year. I’ll just feel too empty without my husband to celebrate.”
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanza and New Year’s Day are annual holidays that can be a very difficult time for people who have experienced the death of someone loved. Memories of good times and togetherness at the holiday season serve to remind us of our loss. Watching others who are feeling thankful and are celebrating when we feel overwhelmed, lonely or sad can be very painful. Holidays force us to realize how much our lives have been changed by the loss of our loved one. Particularly in the first year, many bereaved are left with having to develop new holiday rituals and traditions. The first step in coping with grief at the holidays is to acknowledge that the first holiday season is difficult and then to prepare for it in advance by making specific plans and obtaining the support that you need. Remember too, that sometimes anticipation of a holiday can be more difficult than the arrival of the day itself. Some Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holidays Set realistic expectations for yourself. Remind yourself that this year is different. Decide if you can still handle the responsibilities you’ve had in the past. Examine the tasks and events of celebrating and ask yourself if you want to continue them. Take others up on their offer to help cook, shop, decorate, etc. Consider shopping by phone, Internet or catalogs this year. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Share your plans with family and friends and let then know of any intended changes in holiday routine. Memories can sometimes be a source of comfort to the bereaved. Share your memories with others of holidays spent with your loved one by telling stories and looking at photo albums. Try to avoid “canceling” the holiday despite the temptation. It is OK to avoid some circumstances that you don’t feel ready to handle, but avoid completely isolating yourself. Allow yourself some time for solitude, remembering and grieving, but balance it with planned activities with others. Allow yourself to feel joy, sadness, anger – allow yourself to grieve. It is important to recognize that every family member has their own unique grief experience and may have Page | 2
different needs related to celebrating the holidays. Not one way is right or wrong. Experiencing joy and laughter does not mean you have forgotten your loved one. Draw comfort from doing for others. Consider giving a donation or gift in memory of you loved one. Invite a guest who might otherwise be alone for the holidays. Adopt a needy family during the holiday season. Take care of yourself. Avoid using alcohol to self-medicate your mood. Try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Physical exercise is often an anecdote for depression. Writing in a journal can be a good outlet for your grief expression. Buy yourself something frivolous that you always wanted but never allowed yourself to indulge in. Create a new tradition or ritual that accommodates your current situation. Some people find comfort in the old traditions. Others find them unbearably painful. Discuss with your family the activities you want to include or exclude this year. Some examples of new rituals and traditions include: • •
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Announce beforehand that someone different will carve the turkey this year. Create a memory box. You could fill it with photos of your loved one or written memory notes from family members and friends. Young children could include their drawings in the memory box. Make a decorative quilt using favorite colors, symbols or images that remind you of the person who died. Light a candle in honor of your absent loved one. Put a bouquet of flowers on your holiday table in memory of your loved one Visit the cemetery and decorate the memorial site with holiday decorations. Have a moment of silence during a holiday toast to honor your loved one. Place a commemorative ornament on the Christmas tree. Dedicate one of the Chanukah candles in memory of your loved one. Write a poem about your loved one and read it during a holiday ritual. Play your loved one’s favorite music or play their favorite game. Plan a meal with your loved ones’ favorite foods
The most important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday season after the death of a loved one, and that the best way to cope with that first holiday season is to plan ahead, get support from others, and take it easy. Books on Grief and the Holidays James Miller, How Will I Get Through the Holidays? Twelve Ideas for Those Whose Loved One Has Died Drs. Clarence Tucker and Cliff Davis, Holiday Blues—A Self Help Manual on Grief Through the Holidays Page | 3
Recommendations for the Holidays 1. Keep things simple. Think about the hoopla- actively choose to continue a few things this year, but not all the fluff. Decide what's important and what's busy work. If you are grieving, you no doubt have less energy and stamina than in years past. Plan for the holidays. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that if you ignore the holidays that they will disappear. 2. Allow yourself to be sad (or angry). Holidays actually give us a wonderful opportunity to feel intense feelings in a supportive environment. Try not to run away from the sadness, sit with it, share it with others, honor the memory of the person you've lost. Lean into the sadness - grief is a tribute to the love you shared with someone very important to you. 3.
The "let down" after the holidays can also be a difficult time - ask for help with, ex. Taking down the tree and make some plans for January. Give yourself something to look forward to.
Create new rituals. It is impossible to celebrate "as if someone were alive" - but families can replace holidays with new rituals that both honor their loss and confirm their present relationships. Holidays give us the opportunity to honor two very strong human needs - to heal and to celebrate. Simple rituals (nothing elaborate) allow us to simultaneously honor the past, alter the present and enable the future.
Light a candle, tell stories, set out a favorite drink. If a grandparent has died, for example, who always passed out the Christmas presents - make a ceremony of passing on that responsibility to a child - along with a crown and a brief statement of the significance of this "passing of the reign"
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My First Christmas in Heaven I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below. With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow, The sight is so spectacular; please wipe away the tear, For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year, I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear, But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas Choir up here. I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices brings, For it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing, I know how much you miss me; I see the pain inside your heart, But I am not so far away. We really aren’t apart, So be happy for me dear ones, you know I hold you dear, And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year. I send you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above, I send you each a memory of my undying love After all, love is the gift, more precious than pure gold, It was always most important in the stories Jesus told, Please love and keep each other, as my father said to do, For I can’t count the blessings or love he has for each of you. So, have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear, Remember, I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
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WHY IS PRENEED FUNERAL PLANNING IMPORTANT? No one likes to think about death, let alone plan for it. In many families, discussing one’s mortality is an extremely uncomfortable topic. But it is a topic that should be discussed and planned for well in advance of your death. By pre-planning your funeral, you relieve your family of having to make important financial decisions during a period of great stress and grief – a time when people aren’t thinking clearly and may not know what to do because you never made your wishes known. It’s easy to say, “Don’t make a fuss. I don’t want a ceremony. Just bury me and be done with it.” But it is important to realize that the ritual of a funeral and/or memorial service isn’t for the deceased but for the living. It is a time when friends and family can gather together to grieve openly and to provide support for one another. Pre-planning, when done properly, can give you peace of mind because you know that your arrangements are ready and pre-funded. You can meet with one of our funeral directors to discuss pre-planning. By pre-planning your funeral, you can: Make all the arrangements during a time of peace and not leave them to your family during their time of grief; Make your wishes known; Control the cost of your funeral and protect from inflation; Ensure that personal records are organized and easy for your survivors to locate: Protect your insurance so that it provides for your survivors and not for funeral expenses ; Protect your assets such as your home, investments and insurance with SSI Medicaid irrevocable accounts. Provide protection in case the need arises before it is expected;
This helpful advice comes from your friends at the O'Connell-Murphy Funeral Home. If you would like to make an appointment or have questions please feel free to call us 8230124 or e-mail us at www.oconnell-murphy.com Sincerely, John A Murphy Funeral Director O'Connell-Murphy Funeral Home
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Creating Healing Experiences Since 1929
O'Connell - Murphy Funeral Home 2286 South Park Avenue • Buffalo, NY 14220-2698 • (716) 823-0124