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Holiday hints for the grieving

Expert offers ways to cope

By Tony Panaccio News & Experts Syndicate

With the holiday season comes all the commercials and media reminding us how joyful and thankful we should all feel.

However, what if we’ve just lost a loved one, and we aren’t feeling particularly joyful? The profound absence of someone we love is often illuminated at a time when others are celebrating family and other relationships. But there is hope for the holidays, said grief expert Jan Groft, author of As We Grieve: Discoveries of Grace in Sorrow from Graham House Books (www.aswegrieve.com). Her view is that there is hidden grace and peace enveloped between the tears shed in grieving those we have lost.

“For those who grieve, the essential element we must allow ourselves—however brief or vast we require it to be—is time,” said Groft. “Expectations may need to be pared back in the same way that people streamline gift budgets during an economic downturn. Expecting to ‘get over’ the sadness, especially in light of the surrounding merriment, is unrealistic. We need to treat our grieving hearts gently, whether that means an evening spent with headphones listening to music, a rejuvenating walk in the brisk outdoors, an afternoon nap in front of the fireplace or a silent prayer amidst all the fanfare.”

When asked for a holiday gift list, survivors and caregivers might take the opportunity to request something particularly meaningful, Groft suggested. For some, this might mean a meal out with a friend who will listen. For others, it might be a gift certificate for a journaling workshop, a soothing book of poetry, a Bible or a class at a local gym.

The same thinking can be applied to gift-giving. Years after losing her own father, Groft noted that she went through a box of letters and cards he had left behind.

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