THE CHILL FAC­TOR

Health (USA) - - Success In Sight - By RE­BECCA SOFFER

Learn how low tem­per­a­tures can pep up your work­out.

Los­ing some­one you love can make this sea­son hard to han­dle. Here are some ways to ease the pain and honor your mem­o­ries.

SINCE CHILD­HOOD, I’D

al­ways rev­eled in my sta­tus as a “par­ent per­son.” My mom and dad were my best friends, my big­gest source of en­cour­age­ment and guid­ance, a joy (for the most part) to hang out with, the ones who made spe­cial mile­stones and sea­sons, well, the most spe­cial.

I was lucky, and I knew it.

But at just 34 years old, I found my­self with­out them. My mom was killed in a car ac­ci­dent when I was 30, and a few years later, my fa­ther suf­fered a fa­tal heart at­tack. Quickly and with­out warn­ing, I went from be­ing a “par­ent per­son” to be­ing a per­son with­out liv­ing par­ents. My mother and fa­ther would never meet my fu­ture hus­band. I would never place my ba­bies in their arms.

I now have years of ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise in grief—per­sonal, of course, but also pro­fes­sional, as co­founder of the web­site Mod­ern Loss and coau­thor of a book by the same name. I know first­hand that no mat­ter whom you lost, and no mat­ter how many years have passed since it hap­pened, grief never leaves you. I also know that for many of us who have lost loved ones, the hol­i­day sea­son—which comes with its own stres­sors—can be es­pe­cially hard to bear. “A lot of things are at play to­ward the end of the year that can re­ally bring grief roar­ing back,” says Claire Bid­well Smith, a grief ther­a­pist and au­thor of Anx­i­ety: The Miss­ing Stage of Grief. “It’s not just the fes­tive sea­son, with beloved rit­u­als and on­go­ing cel­e­bra­tions. It’s also a time

when the days are shorter and tem­per­a­tures are drop­ping through­out much of the coun­try.”

But it’s pos­si­ble to re­claim this time of year in a sig­nif­i­cant way, as I’ve slowly learned to do through trial and er­ror. With some ef­fort, cre­ativ­ity, and a heavy dose of self-care, you can re­shape beloved rit­u­als and cre­ate new ones that are uniquely mean­ing­ful to you—just like your loss. Here’s some of the best ad­vice I’ve found:

Pick One Tra­di­tion to Carry On

When some­one on whom you al­ways re­lied for hol­i­day rit­u­als is gone (your hus­band who hung the lights, your mom who made the turkey), it can feel as though the com­fort and magic of the sea­son, along with count­less prac­ti­cal de­tails, rests en­tirely on your shoul­ders. Plus, ev­ery sen­ti­men­tal com­mer­cial and off­hand com­ment from co­work­ers (“Oh, I’m go­ing shop­ping with my mom this week­end”) serves as a re­minder of the club you’re no longer in.

Un­der­stand that com­pletely repli­cat­ing past cel­e­bra­tions down to the small­est de­tail can be very dif­fi­cult. In­stead, con­sider choos­ing one trea­sured ri­tual, like open­ing gifts in your sis­ter’s pre­ferred or­der or watch­ing your hus­band’s fa­vorite hol­i­day film, and give your­self per­mis­sion for flex­i­bil­ity on the next hol­i­day if your grief is in a dif­fer­ent place then, sug­gests Alysha Lacey, pro­gram di­rec­tor at the Dougy Cen­ter for Griev­ing Chil­dren & Fam­i­lies in Port­land, Ore­gon. This kind of se­lec­tiv­ity al­lows you to foster a sense of con­nec­tion with­out ex­haust­ing your­self phys­i­cally and men­tally, or turn­ing the month into an emo­tional mine­field. For ex­am­ple, since her fa­ther died seven years ago, Valentina Vi­tols Bello, of Seat­tle, has doled out crisp $1 bills to fam­ily mem­bers and friends on many New Year’s Eves.

“My fa­ther would al­ways write the year on them with a Sharpie and gift them as a sym­bol of pros­per­ity for the year to come,” she says. “I also keep the ones he gave me with my Christ­mas stuff, so I can get to see them ev­ery hol­i­day sea­son.”

Have Some Fun

Bring­ing a lit­tle lev­ity to an emo­tion­ally charged pe­riod can be sur­pris­ingly em­pow­er­ing and help you build a com­mu­nity. Amanda Johns Perez, of Los An­ge­les, heads to McDon­ald’s each De­cem­ber in mem­ory of her dad, whose fa­vorite sand­wich was the chain’s sig­na­ture burger. “Dave Johns Memo­rial Big Mac Day started as some­thing my im­me­di­ate fam­ily could do, wher­ever we were,” she says. “But over the years, peo­ple who didn’t even know my fa­ther have joined in. Each photo I re­ceive of drive-through lines takes a lit­tle sting out of the day and makes the start of the sea­son more bear­able.”

I ac­knowl­edge my dad in a sim­i­lar way. When

I was a teenager, he em­bar­rassed me an­nu­ally by dis­play­ing a 10-foot-tall meno­rah (that he built him­self!) on our front lawn, com­plete with hol­i­day lights. Now that he’s gone, I honor that uniquely cre­ative act by invit­ing friends to the world’s largest meno­rah light­ing, near Cen­tral Park. It’s a won­der­ful way for them to get to know a piece of his per­son­al­ity, and for me to not be alone in my thoughts.

In­vite Some­one in Need

The loss of a loved one rips a hole in the fam­ily fab­ric, one that can be painfully ob­vi­ous at the din­ner ta­ble, when you’re used to see­ing that per­son in their usual place. One woman tells me she fills the void by invit­ing some­one deal­ing with empti­ness in her own life. For the past few years, she has been joined by a fam­ily friend who, due to new cus­tody ar­range­ments, can no longer spend Christ­mas with her own kids. “It’s been so won­der­ful to in­clude her in our hol­i­day meals in­stead of star­ing at an empty seat where my dad used to sit,” she says.

Write to Your Per­son

Ash­ley Wy­man, of Hous­ton, lost her fa­ther to brain can­cer three years ago. Ev­ery year since, she buys him a hol­i­day card, writes an up­date on her life in­side, and en­closes it in a bin­der. “I keep the cards so that when I’m ready, I can look back at my jour­ney and see how much I have grown since he has passed,” she says. Smith en­cour­ages de­vel­op­ing an ex­pres­sive prac­tice like writ­ing or cre­at­ing art. “Keep­ing up a con­nec­tion and even an in­ter­nal di­a­logue with our lost loved ones is vi­tal to a healthy grief process,” she says.

Ask for Help

If you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing re­cur­ring thoughts that feel un­man­age­able—you can’t stop en­vi­sion­ing mor­bid or ill­ness-re­lated images, you’re be­com­ing para­noid, or you’re con­sid­er­ing harm­ing your­self or oth­ers—talk to your doc­tor about get­ting help. Even if things don’t feel dire, you might find it com­fort­ing to speak with a ther­a­pist, es­pe­cially if your friends are fo­cused on mer­rier mat­ters. (Grief can be awk­ward to broach with even the clos­est friends.) There’s also vir­tual sup­port at your fin­ger­tips. Join the Mod­ern Loss closed Face­book group or the Op­tion B Cop­ing with Grief one. The best part of th­ese re­sources:

They’re avail­able 24/7.

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