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Front Page » December 27, 2005 » Local News » Death, loss compound holiday season stress
Published 3,570 days ago

Death, loss compound holiday season stress

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Grief over a departed loved one is especially poignant during the holiday season. Those that dwell too much over the change can find themselves in a very low place emotionally and psychologically.

Dan Foyes indicates that the death of his wife to an illness three years ago was bad, but the loss coming just before Christmas still haunts him and his two daughters .

"Sometimes I just can't get over it," explains Foyes. "When they start putting up decorations in stores and on the streets, it just reminds me of what happened. I have moved on, but the pain is often still there."

Foyes is not alone in his sadness. Many people feel loss more during the holiday season than any other time of the year. And the loss is often not just about death. Divorce, separation or sickness in the family can cause a lot of stress.

Emotional stress is part of the holidays. When unfortunate circumstances are added to the situation, unhappiness can permeate all of the festivities. The stress also affects children, despite the fact that most people think that Christmas should be the happiest time of the year for the younger set.

Regardless of socio-economic class or religion, every family will have to face an unhappy holiday season sooner or later. It is a fact of life.

For residents who have never experienced a less than happy holiday season, it may be difficult to understand how people can feel left out of the fun. But people who are unhappy tend to become more so when everyone is having a good time.

Experts recommend several steps that Carbon County residents can follow to not only work on personal unhappiness during the holidays, but help others deal with the added stress.

First, people should get rid of the shoulds in the psyche of the individual who is unhappy or grieving.

Understanding that the unhappy situation may have happened even if the individual had done something or acted differently is a good way to start.

Sometimes people feel guilty because they had a disagreement or left on less than the best of terms the last time they saw a loved one before the family member or friend died.

People need to come to understand that what happened wasn't anyone's fault, indicated the experts. People also need to realize that they could have not done anything to prevent what took place.

One thing that also happens is people tend to not want to talk about the person who is gone, particularly when the individual has died. It is sometimes almost surrealistic how people act, as if the person will walk in the door any moment or is away on a long trip. Talking about the departed person and the related feelings frequently helps to resolve the problem.

One of the things that trips people up about their feelings is that fact that they think that because Christmas is supposed to be happy time they can't express how they really feel because they fear it will ruin everyone elses holiday. What they fail to realize is that often the best way to solve the problem inside them is to talk to others who loved the person that is gone. Those that do that often find that others in the family or the circle of friends are feeling the same way they are. Opening up of a dialouge is a catharsis they all can use.

Whether a loss is to death, separation or divorce, a good way to get by the negative feelings is to do something that celebrates life and all the good it has to offer. This may include a trip to a place that brings joy to the person or doing something for others. Volunteering time to those less fortunate during the holidays, even directly on the holiday itself can lift a persons spirit. And of course there is the ever present practice of going to religious services to help one look at life from a different perspective.

One of the things people also fail to realize, or want to face, is that the holidays will never be the same again. That doesn't mean they will be worse, but they will be different. Expectations that a family or group of friends can make things just like they were with a person missing will always lead to disappointment. Sometimes changing traditions to face the new world can help. For instance families that always stayed home for Christmas might want to take a trip during the holidays to another location to celebrate, changing how things have been done before, but still having continuity as a unit.

Probably one of the biggest problems those grieving have during the holidays is the additional stress they may place on themselves by trying to do more to "kill the pain." Some feel if they are busier they will have less time to think about the situation. However, the added ingredients may create more stress rather than less. People need to be honest with themselves and others about the situation and talk out the pain.

Most of all people need to think about the good memories they have about the person who is gone. Think of the holidays past when they gave great parties, handed people special gifts or just were fun to be around. Anyone who is worth remembering this way would not want anyone to be miserable around Christmastime.

Finally never feel guilty about enjoying the holidays.

"The first year she was gone I had a hard time because I thought it was not right that I enjoyed Christmas" said Foyes. "But after two years I have come to the realization that for my living families sake I need to pick it up and like this time of year again. That doesn't mean I have forgotten about her, but that I have moved on to the place where I can put it in the proper context."

Regardless of all the advice he has been given by professionals and those who love him, he said he still gets pangs every once in awhile.

"Time will never heal it completely, but I am much better this year than last. It's a matter of gaining perspective," he concluded.

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