For families who lost a loved one on September 11th it has been eighteen years, yet the loss may still linger. For the family and friends of the 2,600 first responders and survivors who have died since 9/11, and for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to other circumstances, the holiday season may be challenging.
Whether this is the first holiday season without your loved one, or if many years have passed, the holidays highlight memories of those who are not with us to celebrate.
At what should be a joyful time of year, we feel their absence even more strongly. You are not alone. In advance of the holidays, we wanted to share some thoughtful notes we received from 9/11 families about the challenges they faced and some helpful ways of getting through the holiday season.
I never know what might trigger the “tougher” times during the holidays.
Leading up to the holidays is very difficult, the photos on the wall, the cards and letters that come out of the boxes when we start to decorate the house, the memories…
I don’t want to go to parties by myself. Seeing my friends with their spouses is a reminder that my husband is no longer here.
My mom was the glue in our family, and the holidays were a time for us to celebrate at her home. After her death the house was sold, since then I’ve lost touch with my sisters and the holidays have never been the same.
Our anniversary is during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holidays magnify the loss of my wife and I feel very isolated and alone.
The first year was overwhelming- I couldn’t put up a tree or even buy presents. With the passage of time I am now able to decorate again and celebrate the holidays in a new but different way.
I miss our old family traditions.
I lost my only sibling, and feel guilty when I am not at home to celebrate the holidays with my parents.
Everybody’s loss is custom made but I can only tell them to find courage in as Wordsworth said, “…in what remains behind”, and in the bravery our children give us in order to create a life without our loved ones because we have a choice and they did not.
Here Are Some Tips That May Be Helpful Getting Through the Holidays
- Surround yourself with people who love and support you
- Ask for help with holiday tasks and errands
- Take care of your body and mind. Get plenty of sleep, eat well and engage in some physical activity you enjoy – even if it’s a short brisk walk
- Be kind to yourself; allow yourself to experience even small moments of joy
- Keep your regular routine
- Take small steps to participate in a holiday activity
- Consider creating a new tradition or focus on a joyful past tradition; do what feels right to you
- Give yourself permission to feel different feelings at different times. Grief and joy can co-exist
- Focus on today, not yesterday
- Allow yourself to set limits on how much you feel you can participate; let people know you may not come or only stay briefly
- Reflect on your reasons to feel hopeful for the future
- Start a journal about “one good thing about today was….”
- Consider reaching out to someone who has also experienced loss; comforting others can comfort us
- Try to replace the thought “I will always feel sad at the holidays” with “I sometimes feel sad even though it’s a holiday” – doing so can help feelings not seem permanent
- Do some things just for you; a walk, a bath, yoga, reading, watching a favorite movie or making your favorite meal
- Find a local support group through your town or church
Grief Doesn't Take a Holiday: Helping Families and Children Cope
Dr. Suzanne Phillips, accomplished clinician and radio host of Psych Up Live conducted an interview with Connie Palmer, the Clinical Training Director of Imagine, a Center for Coping with Loss. Both Suzanne and Connie are longtime friends and supporters of VOICES work and important contributors at our annual conferences.
Their conversation addresses the reality that “Grief doesn’t take a holiday.” Drawing upon Connie Palmer’s work with children and families who have faced loss, she considers why the holidays are such a tough time for all family members who are grieving. She defines loss, grief and mourning as well as “Holiday Grief Beliefs.” She discusses how children grieve differently than adults, and age appropriate ways to support and help them. The show is a gift that will inform and touch your heart.
VOICES Hosts Teleconference Support Groups Making Connections With Others During the Holidays
Recognizing that the approaching holiday season can be stressful, we have scheduled several teleconference discussion groups that will be facilitated by our social worker Sarah Jones, LCSW. Space is limited.
- Thursday December 19th 3:00pm – 4:00pm
- Friday December 20th 12:00pm – 1:00pm
To register, email Sarah Jones, LCSW at firstname.lastname@example.org
What Are Your Suggestions?
We Would Like to Hear From You
Although navigating the holidays can be challenging, those who have experienced a loss can provide valuable insights and support to others. We encourage you to engage in the conversation with your peers by adding your suggestions on our Facebook page:
As always, please contact our office at (203) 966-3911 if we can be of assistance.