Grief and the “year of firsts”


The “year of firsts” includes all those special occasions and holidays that take place during the first year of grieving the loss of a loved one. This includes birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day and, of course, the winter holiday season. In fact, getting though the winter holidays can be one of the most difficult and painful parts of your grief journey.

Books, magazines and newspapers are all full of advice about grief and what you should or should not do during the holidays. Friends and family who want to be helpful, may also rally around you with a host of well-meaning activities and invitations to keep you busy. But, this grief journey is YOUR journey. How you choose to celebrate the holidays during the first year of your loss is very personal.

As the season begins, one approach is to acknowledge that the holidays will be difficult and then decide on the activities you will participate in and those you may want to decline. The key is to attend the events that you really want to, not those to which you feel obligated. And, set realistic expectations on your time and energy. You can cut back on holiday decorations and entertaining, or skip them all together if the tasks are just too painful this year.

Another way to ease the pain of loss is to take advantage of support services and memorial events in your community. Merrimack Valley Hospice is hosting their annual Candles of Remembrance on Wednesday, December, 6th, at 6:00 p.m. at Renaissance Golf Club, at 377 Kenoza Street in Haverhill. The evening includes a brief memorial service and outdoor candle lighting ceremony. In addition, they are offering a series of grief workshops on the first and third Tuesday in December at St. Michael’s Parish at 196 Main Street in North Andover from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. More information on both of these events is on the main page of our website by clicking here.

Remember that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays after the death of a loved one. The best way to cope this year is to plan ahead, get support from others and take it easy.

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