Nav­i­gat­ing through Christ­mas while griev­ing

Ad­vice from Queen’s Col­lege provost and vice-chan­cel­lor

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Local - BY DANETTE DOO­LEY SPE­CIAL TO THE CEN­TRAL VOICE [email protected]

While the hol­i­day sea­son is a time for cel­e­bra­tion and com­ing to­gether as fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, that kind of ex­pec­ta­tion can weigh heavy on those who have ex­pe­ri­enced loss.

Queen’s Col­lege provost and vice-chan­cel­lor Rick Sin­gle­ton drew on a pow­er­ful quote by in­ter­na­tion­ally known au­thor and grief coun­selor, Earl Groll­man, when of­fer­ing ad­vice on griev­ing a loss dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son.

“Grief is love’s un­will­ing­ness to let go,” Sin­gle­ton said dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

Grief is a nor­mal, nat­u­ral and healthy re­sponse to loss and helps peo­ple make the jour­ney from the way life used to be to the way it’s go­ing to be.

Christ­mas is the time of year, Sin­gle­ton said, when peo­ple will ex­pe­ri­ence grief most in­tensely.

“Many have found the an­tic­i­pa­tion of the sea­son is worse than Christ­mas Day it­self,” he said.

Loss comes in many forms and while grief is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the death of a loved one, other losses that cause grief in­clude re­la­tion­ship break-up, job loss and loss of in­de­pen­dence.

“We are like the strands of a rope, wo­ven to­gether. When one strand is un­wo­ven, it’s clear things are not the way they used to be,” he said.

There are no short cuts or quick fixes along the jour­ney from the old nor­mal to the new nor­mal, he said.

“Grief is na­ture’s way of al­low­ing us to hold on the good things of the past while we pre­pare and ad­just for the fu­ture.”

Sin­gle­ton has a PhD in Health Ethics and a Doc­tor of Min­istry de­gree. He has four decades of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with peo­ple through pas­toral care and in the health care sys­tem. He has led train­ing sem­i­nars in grief and be­reave­ment and has de­vel­oped multimedia re­sources to help peo­ple es­tab­lish be­reave­ment sup­port pro­grams in their com­mu­ni­ties.

In pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion he has put to­gether about grief, Sin­gle­ton notes that fam­i­lies of­ten dread the first and sec­ond Christ­mas sea­sons af­ter the loss of a loved one. They fear the in­ten­sity of the sea­son will cause them to lose con­trol, be overly emo­tional, or that they will feel so mis­er­able that it would up­set oth­ers.

Peo­ple who are griev­ing should let rel­a­tives and friends know that it’s OK to men­tion the de­ceased one’s name, he said, and that if you get emo­tional, that’s fine too.

For most peo­ple grief comes in waves and is trig­gered by spe­cial oc­ca­sions such as Christ­mas. When asked about cel­e­brat­ing while griev­ing, Sin­gle­ton said it’s un­re­al­is­tic to be­lieve you can skip the hol­i­days al­to­gether. In­stead, he said, face them and make plans with your loved ones.

It of­ten helps to talk about what you and your fam­ily will do re­gard­ing such things as gift-giv­ing, par­ties, card-send­ing, dec­o­rat­ing, en­ter­tain­ing and vis­it­ing.

“Plan to do things you and your fam­ily feel com­fort­able do­ing,” he said. “If you can­cel ac­tiv­i­ties it may leave you with a lot of free time to feel even more lone­some and mis­er­able.”

It’s also OK to re­mem­ber what you’re not com­fort­able do­ing, he said, and to feel joy in your mem­o­ries.

Both Chris­tians and nonChris­tians find com­fort in their re­li­gious be­liefs and spir­i­tual prac­tices, Sin­gle­ton said. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­mu­nity events to help you get through the hol­i­days can also be ben­e­fi­cial.

“I com­mend peo­ple in health care sys­tems, in church and com­mu­nity groups who put on events such as cop­ing with the hol­i­days… these events con­nect peo­ple with oth­ers and help ver­ify that, what you’re go­ing through is very dif­fi­cult but is very typ­i­cal,” he said.

Fur­ther­more, peo­ple who are griev­ing are do­ing a lot of work.

Griev­ing is men­tally drain­ing and phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing, he said, and it’s im­por­tant that peo­ple take care of them­selves and find ways to re­lax.

Cana­dian au­thor Lucy Maud Mont­gomery once said, “Noth­ing is ever lost to us as long as we re­mem­ber it.”

Many fam­i­lies find com­fort in re­mem­ber­ing their de­ceased loved one in a spe­cial way at Christ­mas, Sin­gle­ton said.

“It could be start­ing a new tra­di­tion or de­cid­ing to take a few mo­ments to say a few words about the per­son, or light­ing a can­dle… be­cause, some­times, when we gather for spe­cial oc­ca­sions, the ones who are most present are the ones who are not there,” he said.

CON­TRIBUTED PHOTO-ROBERT YOUNG

Queen’s Col­lege provost and vice-chan­cel­lor, Rick Sin­gle­ton.

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