We all know that winter can be dangerous, especially with icy conditions and unhealthy exertion that might cause a heart attack such as when shoveling snow or trying to push a car that is stuck. But did you know that December and January are considered to have the highest mortality rates in the U.S.?
Aside from suicides during the holidays, there are many factors including those named above which contribute to the high incidence of death – just look at the newspaper to note obituary information. That equates to many loved ones being left behind, and also means opportunity to make a difference for those individuals.
Now to the point of this column: Refer to a past column as noted below on what to do for those who have lost loved ones; this column focuses on self-help for those left behind. But you can and should encourage them to make a difference for themselves because loss of a loved one is perhaps the one time we each have permission to be centered on ourselves to grieve in our own way.
- Find the best actions to honor the deceased. Whether it is to continue a tradition that was special to the person, or to begin a new one, make it specific such as flowers on the altar at church, donating to a cause that was important to the deceased, or continuing a family tradition such a Christmas Eve open house. Whatever you choose, it should feel to you like it’s the right thing to do
- Remember the birthday of the person who has passed on, and do something special to celebrate his or her life. This can mean something as simple as going out to dinner with the family, and don’t forget to gently remind others of the day. Their loss may not feel or be as significant as yours, but sharing grief can be comforting.
- Talk about your loved one. Sometimes people are afraid to do so because they know it could make you sad, but many people are more concerned that their loved ones will be forgotten. So take the lead – say something about the person who is gone.
- Remember anniversaries and don’t be afraid to gently remind others of this difficult time for you. If you lost a spouse, try taking your children out to dinner to celebrate the day because they are the closest thing you have to your deceased husband or wife.
- At holidays, think of others and give a gift in honor of the deceased individual. Thinking of others lets you center less on yourself and your loss.
- Write to your loved one or journal. Expressing feelings is important, and depending upon your beliefs, it can be contact with the one who has passed on, albeit a one-sided conversation. It’s your opportunity to tap into your inner-self and say what you want the deceased to know.
- Be kind to yourself, but realize at what point you need to push yourself to do something. It’s okay to say no, but sometimes you will need to make yourself attend an outing, visit other relatives, host a family dinner, etc.
- Try not to feel victimized. Pity, especially self-pity, is not productive, and grieving doesn’t have to include that aspect. Everyone will experience loss, and for some, it will be as difficult for them as it is for you. This world is not perfect, but everyone’s goal should be to make this world a better place. You can still do that, even through your sorrow, because your fellowman depends upon it.
- Most of all, remember caring for others can help us to forget our own troubles. We need and must grieve for lost loved ones, but we can still honor them and should. Never forget the past, but remember there is a future.
The bottom line for all of us is when you make the world a better place for others, it means also making it a better place for yourself, even through sadness. And with the most heartfelt emotion, I wish that better place for all who grieve.