This is a modified rerun of a post I did last December. It’s about the helping the grieving during the holidays. I did several them, and over the next few days will republish them as we approach two holidays, Easter and Passover, that are observed by the entire family, and are therefore especially problematic for the recently bereaved. This year Passover begins the evening of April 14th, and Easter falls on April 20th.
I want to share my own experience of this with you. My young wife of 22 years died at age 42–this was some years ago–the week before Thanksgiving. She passed on Thursday. We buried her on Sunday. Thanksgiving was only four days off. We decided to do nothing more than have a simple dinner with just my parents, my brother and me. I hadn’t left the house after the funeral nor was I watching television, so I was not caught up in the ‘holiday spirit.’ She had been in the hospital for nine weeks leading up to her passing, the endgame of a five-year struggle with cancer. To be fair, we had four very good years between her first surgery and chemo until the cancer came back a year before she died.During that time our relationship deepened, and we took every opportunity in life to ‘smell the roses.’ Even during that last year we lived as fully as possible between rounds of chemo until our luck ran out on another holiday weekend, Labor Day.
Here’s what I learned and want to share with you: first, the hardest time is that first year as you cycle through not only holidays but also birthdays and anniversaries. Each one is a knife in your heart. The good news is that it gets better after that. The second year is significantly less painful, and each subsequent year is better. No matter how things work out for you, there will always be moments of pain. you’ll remember some time with your deceased loved one sitting across a table, holding your hand at a parade, toasting the New Year, but this is not a bad thing, it is just life happening. This is how they live on through you.
For all of you, grieving or not, here is what you should do for those who are new to loss. Reach out to them and MAKE SURE THEY ARE COVERED for all the major holidays. Push them to come to your Easter celebration or Passover Seder even if you have to drag them. Note in your smartphone or calendar their birthday and anniversary, and the birthday of their departed loved one. Call them. You don’t need a pretext. Tell them the reason you are calling is to share their pain.
Don’t hesitate to invite the newly bereft to a festive event. My wife was dead only 42 days when my cousin, Steven, dragged me to a couple of New Year’s Eve parties. I resisted and he insisted. He was right. Yes, I cried my eyes out walking home that night, but being among people who were all looking forward and not backward uplifted my spirits.
For friends and family of the bereft, force them join you for Easter or Passover. If you and your grieving friend or relative are regular church goers, don’t forget to ask them to join you on Good Friday as well. If you are Jewish and observant, remember that the last day of Passover, April 22nd this year, is when the special service of Yizkor is recited, a special memorial service for the dead; offer to accompany them to the synagogue. Since both Easter and Yizkor during Passover revolve around themes of death and suffering, it is tremendously helpful to have someone with you who cares during these holidays.
For the grieving, accept these invitations graciously although the thought of partying so soon after your loss is killing you inside. It will accelerate your healing, and you will discover who your true friends and family are.
Also, for the grieving, if you haven’t tried AfterTalk Private Conversations, join now (totally free) and try therapeutic writing to your loved one about, for example, how it feels to experience each holiday without them. Talk about memories of past Easters/Passovers. You will find that continuing the bond through writing give you great comfort.