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The following guidelines are shared in the hope that they will be helpful to you in thinking about and planning for the holidays ahead and other special family times throughout the year. They were prepared by Shirley Melin of The Compassionate Friends, Fox Valley Chapter, Aurora, Il. with some additions from the Montgomery, Al. Chapter, and from booklet, Handling The Holidays, edited by Bruce Conley, a funeral director in Elburn, Il.. and a member of the Advisory Board of the Fox Valley Chapter. We are most grateful to all of these people for sharing with us.

Holidays, birthdays, and other special days are usually times for family gatherings and celebrations. When we come together for the first time after the death of a child, it can be really difficult. Our families try to protect us in the best way they can, but it still can hurt. How can we cope? How can we as grieving parents handle these times in a realistic and effective way?

First, acknowledge and accept your feelings. Tears, depression, and loneliness are all natural reactions to a loss, months, even a year or more after the loss. At the same time, do not feel as though you are betraying your child if you are able to enjoy some of the festivities.

If the thought of preparing for these special days seems overwhelming, one helpful first step may be to make a list of things to be done in planning for the holiday. Have a family conference and together decide what is really important: what traditions do you want to carry on? What would some members find meaningful, or what things might be too painful? What changes, if any, would you want to make? Consider whether a task can be shared, whether someone else can take it on, or whether it should be eliminated. Whatever decisions are reached, this sharing can demonstrate recognition and respect for each person's values.

In setting priorities, good guidelines to use are: Would the holiday or special day be the same without it? What gave meaning to holidays in the past? If you have family traditions, decide together whether you want to carry them on this year or if this is a good time to begin new ones. Consider and discuss ways of keeping traditions while trying to lessen the pain of the loss, perhaps by making some changes in the usual way of doing things. Remember that although we may decide to do some things differently this year, we can decide to return to earlier customs another year if we wish.

It is important to realize that while holidays and special days are traditionally a time of festivity, they can also be a time of frantic busyness and resultant fatigue. Don't set unrealistic expectations form yourself to be joyful. As grieving persons we must recognize that we may may be simply unable to function at our normal pace. We may need to break things down into smaller, more manageable chunks, goals we can achieve. Fatigue can be deadly and lead to feelings of depression under the best of circumstances. Dion';t overextend, don't over-commit. Eliminate the unnecessary and reduce the pressure on yourself and others. By talking over what is really important with family members, priorities can be set, tasks shared, and plans made to accomplish those things considered essential. Decide what you can handle comfortably and let your needs be known to friends and relatives.

If your faith has been an important party of your life, allow times for its expression during these holidays and special days. If it has not, this may be a fitting time to approach the clergy person or church of your choice. In either case, you may find that by enriching and deepening your religious experience, you have added a new dimension to your life.

Our lives have changed. Our holidays will be different. It's not a choice of pain or no pain, but how we manage the ;pain we feel. The important thing to remember is to do what is comfortable for you and your family. It may help to know what those of us who have been through these holidays and special days before have found that anticipation is frequently worse than the day itself. 

Candle Light Remembrance Ceremony

As we light these five candles in honor of our loved ones,

We light one for our grief.

One for our courage; one for our memories.

One for our love, and one for our hope.

This candle represents our grief.

The pain of losing you is intense.

It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

This candle represents our courage;

To confront our sorrow.

To comfort each other.

To change our lives.

This candle we light in your memory.

Remembering the times we laughed, the times we cried.

The times we were angry with each other.

The silly things you did, and

The caring and yo you gave us.

This candle is the light of love.

It reminds us of our love for you and memories that will last forever.

We cherish the special place in our heart

that will always be reserved for you.

We are grateful for the gift your life brought us.

And this candle is the light of hope.

We light this candle that your light may always shine.

May the glow of the flame be a source of hopefulness

now and forever.

We love you. We remember you.

Lights of Love

Can you see the candles

Burning in the night?

Lights of love we send you

Rays of purest white.

Children we remember

Though missing from our sight

In honor and remembrance

We light candles in the night.

All across the big blue marble

Spinning out in space

Can you see the candlesburning

From this human place?

Oh, angels gone before us

Who taught us perfectlove

This night the world lights candles

That you may see them from above

Tonight the globe is lit by love

Of those who know great sorrow,

But as we remember our yesterdays

Let's light one candle for tomorrow

We will not forget,

And every year in deep December

On Earth we will light candles

As...............we remember.

Written for National Children's Memorial Day

by Jacqueline Brown

Peace Valley Chapter TCF

New Britain, Pa.

Some Suggestions for

Handling The Holidays

Know when the holidays are.

* Holidays are not just at Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, or New Year's

* Holidays are those times when family and friends get together for fun. It may or may not be associated with one of the traditional days of celebration.

*Mark on your calendar the months during which your family's holidays occur.

* Begin early to plan your coping strategies.

Be intentional about how you plan your holiday. If there are any family members, examine together the events and tasks of the celebration and ask:

* Do you really enjoy doing this? Is it done out of habit, free choice, or obligation?

* Is this a task that can be shared?


Decide what you can handle comfortably.

* Whether you are open to talk about our child.

* Whether you feel able to send holiday cards this year.

* Whether you can handle the responsibility of the family dinner, holiday parties, etc. or if you wish someone else to take over some of these traditions this year.

* Whether you will stay at home for the holidays or choose a different environment.

*Shopping is definitely easier if you make the entire list out ahead of time. Then when one of the "good days" comes along along, you can get your shopping done quickly and with less confusion. Shopping by phone or from catalogs can also help.

Don't be afraid to make some changes. It really can make things less painful.

* Let the children take over decorating the tree or invite friends to help.

*Open presents the night before the holiday instead of the morning.

* Have dinner at a different time. Change the seating arrangement.

*Burn a special candle to quietly include your absent son or daughter.

Your greatest comfort may come from doing something for others.

* Giving a gift in memory of your child to a meaningful charity.

*Adopting a needy family for the holidays.

*Inviting a guest ( foreign student, senior citizen, someone who would otherwise be alone) to share the activities.

Evaluate you coping plans.

* Do your plans isolate you from those who love and support you best?

* Do your plans allow for meaningful expression and celebration of what the particular holiday means to you?

Let your plans and limits be known

* Write or phone family and friends to let them know of any intended changes.

* Share with friends and family how you plan to approach the holiday and how they can best help you.

Don't be afraid to have fun.

Enjoyment, laughter, and pleasure are not expressions in which you abandon your child who died. You have not forgotten him or her. Your child would not want you to be forever sad: you need not feel guilty over any enjoyment you may experience.

* Give yourself and members of your family permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the holiday.

Finally, as you seek to make sensible plans, remember to make them firm enough to support you, but flexible enough to leave you some freedom.

The Compassionate Friends, Inc. All rights reserved.

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