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We all know how losing a friend or family member is devastating.
About the only thing as bad as losing a friend or family member, is having the grief surrounding that loss be draped across your Entire Being during Hanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s. All around you are brightly lit stores and homes, festive activities on the Church, synagogue, and school calendars, plus parties at work and over at neighbors’ and friends’ homes.
Sometimes if the loss is not recent, an individual will carefully work through their grief, and it seems to be ebbing away, but then the holidays nudge that grief into resurfacing.
Always remember to be patient with yourself. If you can bring yourself to do this, please consider confiding in a friend or family member about it being a struggle. Or schedule an appointment with a therapist.
There is no formula or schedule for grief. It can last a lifetime, and yet never seem to diminish a bit. Or it can be conquered slowly but surely. Never let anyone tell you, “You should be over that by now.” Yes, certain behaviors related to the loss should cease — no one wants to see a family member or friend remain an alcoholic or continue using drugs, prescription or otherwise, as a permanent feature of the grieving person’s life. But some people cannot shake their grief even over time. The goal then is to let some of the sun in, for that sun to offer its light among the clouds, even if for them, it will never again be a fully bright summer day.
Twelve-step programs are up and running at this time of year. Usually, if you have a phone book or can use a computer, you can find an Alcoholics Anonymous Group with a working phone number. The individual who answers will give you a list of meetings, their times, and locations. (Although you might need to leave word with an answering machine.) Someone there can guide you to a different group if your problem is related to drugs or more of the “Adult Children of Alcoholics” style of program.
Hang in there. Be careful to remember that other people, even those whose lives seem intact, might be facing the same demon you are facing. Perhaps their marriage is crumbling, although it looks good on the surface. Or maybe they too are wrestling with loss, which might have first affected them decades ago. You are not nuts for being unable to respond to holiday cheer. Most of us are not gonna find a Lexus out in our driveway on Dec 25th, wrapped up with a red ribbon, with the new car surrounded by a happy barking Golden Retriever and exuberant family members. (For those here who will have this wonderful kind of Christmas, congratulations, and may your world stay intact ’til the end of your days.)
If you are grief-free, try to think of anyone in your inner circle who might be putting on a bright, cheerful face. One year back in the 1990s, I had a friend who was planning a huge Halloween Party. She had lost the love of her life two years earlier, but this party would coincide with her 35th birthday. She let all of us know that it was being meticulously planned for maximum fun. When I didn’t get an invitation by the 25th or so of that October, I called her parents. They revealed that she had committed suicide one week earlier. It had never dawned on me that all her blabbing about the big exciting party was her attempt to follow the instructions that her crappy therapist had laid down for her: “Get your grieving done within two years.” The day she killed herself was two years and one day past the anniversary of her sweetheart’s death.
If you need some extra support and quickly, there are national and regional suicide help lines. I believe my friend would have made it, if she had reached out to anyone close to her, instead of thinking that she had to keep her grief bottled up inside. Apparently, as the two-year anniversary crept ever closer, she felt it was wrong to still be grieving. After all, she was approaching the magical two-year mark and the therapist she trusted had stated: “normal people move on by the two-year mark.”