By Dr. Robin F. Goodman, VOICES Director of Family Programs
"Like a Rose
A mother's love is like a rose - always blooming,
forever caring, always giving, forever sharing."
Following a tragedy every aspect of life seems to take on new meaning and be experienced in a new light. People and activities may no longer be taken for granted, and holidays may have new significance or may be unwelcome reminders of happier times.
For those who have a personal experience with September 11th, traditional holidays such as Mother's Day, can bring up a variety of feelings in people. Some may dread the holiday, others may embrace it. And Mother's Day has different meaning for different individuals – parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, aunts and uncles.
Experience, personality, family history, and relationships all impact how one chooses to acknowledge any holiday. On Mother's Day a mother who is a survivor, may be extremely grateful for being able to continue sharing in her children's lives. Yet a mother who is grieving the death of a spouse, or a grandmother who has faced the death of a child or grandchild, may have conflicting feelings – attempting to call up comforting memories but feeling sad about not being able to add new ones. And bereaved children may struggle with how to acknowledge a mother who has died or perhaps a new “mother” who may have been added to the family.
Breaking a holiday down into three periods of time can be helpful: before, during, and after.
· Before : Anticipation of the holiday can be the most stressful time. As the date comes into focus, it can start to loom large in some people's mind. Worrying about it can lead to attempts to avoid any unpleasant real or anticipated feelings or situations – perhaps resulting in not making plans or shrugging it off, saying “it's no big deal.”
· During : The reality of the holiday often does not match one's imagination or plan – it is usually better than expected or at least not as bad. Be prepared to change course if need be when the day or an activity doesn't feel right and an alternative is available; it can be OK to leave a gathering early, or call a friend, or go for a walk.
· After: There is often a sense of relief once the holiday is over. It's important to recognize that getting through difficult days can take effort and is an accomplishment in itself. Taking stock of what worked or what you want to change next time is useful. Some suggestions for dealing with the holiday
· Have realistic expectations but don't expect too much. If you think the day will be difficult, acknowledge this reality and understand it won't ever be the same as before 9/11.
· Give yourself and others permission to accept their own feelings and have the holiday they want. It can be a reassuring to know that it is normal to have a tough time on certain holidays and celebrations. However, it is also acceptable and appropriate to feel hopeful and realize that it is possible to feel joy again.
· Have specific and limited goals for the holiday. Goals can be as simple as “just get through the day” or “have a family dinner and rent a favorite movie.”
· Think about what is most upsetting, consider what has worked or not worked in the past, and make changes accordingly. If having the traditional pancake breakfast made you sad then make an effort to try a picnic lunch. If having a normal routine is comforting then schedule usual activities ahead of time.
· Some are comforted by helping others on special holidays, perhaps volunteering or bringing gift baskets or baked goods to a hospital or nursing home.
· Be mindful of everyone involved and the special needs of children. For example, if a child's mother has died, it may be helpful to check in with school teachers about any planned holiday themed activities and make necessary adjustments. Children and teens may have their own preference for handling the day.
· Mother's Day can be about being nurtured or being the one who nurtures others. So giving to oneself can certainly be part of the day – by being with people that are special, doing something special for oneself, doing something for others. If it feels right, pampering oneself is allowed and might be what's needed.
* Poem on the top - Compiled and Written by Rhonda S. Hogan